After the fireworks, the real work of honoring freedom begins

Dorothy Scheff -Waldemar Reichert

Now that Fourth of July flag-waving and fireworks have ended, it may be beneficial to consider the example of Dorothy Scheff, a 91-year-old Hyde Park resident who for decades has advocated for freedom, democracy and citizen participation in the workings of government.

Scheff moved to Montgomery Place, a continuing care retirement community near her home in Hyde Park in 2003. A member of the League of Women Voters since the 1950s, she was already serving as a unit leader for one of three Hyde Park League units, which eventually merged. For the last 11 years, she has convened regular meetings of the League’s Hyde Park unit on the third Monday of the month at Montgomery Place, 5550 South Shore Drive.

“The League’s role is to help inform voters about the issues,” said Scheff. “Like any other civil liberties organization, we support an educated electorate who knows the issues and appreciates how important it is to vote. The League is non-partisan. We don’t endorse candidates. We do, however, take positions on issues, and we do lobby by going to see our elected representatives. We also encourage voters to become active in addressing issues.”

For Scheff, political engagement is second nature. Her mother, Fannie Rubin, advocated for women to use a birth control clinic operating near Hull House in the 1920s. For her effort, Rubin was arrested. “I would say my mother instilled in me a sense of people’s right to self-determination in a free society,” said Scheff, who earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago in 1947. “I’ve never not voted.”

In addition to raising four boys, Scheff worked for 30 years as a social worker for the Children’s Home and Aid Society. When she was in her 80s, she participated in a demonstration supporting Roe vs. Wade and was delighted to see her granddaughter in the crowd. She also has demonstrated to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and social security benefits.

The League’s Hyde Park unit breaks for summer, however, Scheff encourages anyone interested in becoming involved to call her at 773-753-4100 or to call the main office for the Chicago League of Women Voters at 312-939-5949. The next meeting of the Hyde Park unit of the League is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Thursday, September 21, at Montgomery Place, 5550 South Shore Drive.

“We hope people will mark their calendars,” said Scheff. “We’re encouraging more neighbors to join our efforts.”

For more information, call 773-753-4100 or visit