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Women’s Roundtable Going on 30 Years

February 17, 2010

By Marcos Chappell
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Women’s Legislative Roundtable has been meeting every Wednesday since 1981 to discuss legislation and issues affecting women in Virginia. But the meetings aren’t just for women – men can attend, too.

“We pay attention to a lot of bills because there’s no bill that is not a woman’s issue anymore,” said Olga Hernandez, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia.


The roundtable is organized by the league, a nonpartisan political organization. It meets in the General Assembly Building at Capitol Square. At a recent meeting, the topics discussed ranged from sexual abuse in juvenile detention facilities to electronic voting systems.

“It’s not a Democratic thing; it’s not a Republican thing,” Hernandez said. “It is an open nonpartisan forum where legislators of all stripes can come talk.”

The roundtable was founded by Lulu Meese, former president of the League of Women Voters; the late Mary Marshall, who represented Arlington in the House of Delegates for 24 years; and the late Dorothy McDiarmid, who represented Fairfax in the House for 26 years.

Marshall and McDiarmid were formidable legislators who blazed a trail for women in the General Assembly. Both were champions of social issues; Marshall wrote Virginia’s first minimum wage law.

Years ago, Marshall and McDiarmid were struggling to get their bills heard and decided a weekly discussion group would be helpful, Meese said.

Over the past three decades, the roundtable has expanded from small meetings of a few legislators to gatherings of up 100 participants, often including men.

“It provides a very good cross section of the issues and perspectives,” Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Annandale, said after last week’s roundtable. “I have learned a great deal from other delegates and senators in the meetings.”

The Women’s Legislative Roundtable usually meets from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Senate Room 3 of the General Assembly Building.