This “Hooray” for Joan Erwin, by Ann Patton, is part of an occasional series from the Membership and History committees saluting Orange County Leaguers who have been members for more than a quarter of a century. We’re proud that the LWVOC and its activities have been so rich and vital to our community that members have continued their commitment over decades. We salute these League Treasures and the inspiration we find in their stories.
League Treasure: Joan Erwin, League Inspiration in Perpetual Motion
Joan Erwin is the LWVOC’s very own perpetual-motion machine, tirelessly living her passionate commitment to social justice and democracy.
As a 45-year LWV member, Joan qualifies as a “League Treasure” in a select group of the most senior LWVOC members, in terms of membership.
Most of us slow down as we grow older. Joan just seems to continually speed up. Her psychic furnace is fueled by an endless collection of talented people whom she entices and inspires to join into her battles for good works.
Joan has been engaged with the LWVOC since the 1970s, ever since she moved to Florida. (The move itself achieved one of her life goals, which was “to move to Florida and get warm.”) She joined the League because “I wanted to be in the group that was making a positive difference in saving democracy.”
Some of the major issues in her tenure have included:
- Preservation of natural resources, a fervor she shares with her husband, Jim. Her first big project was helping collect hundreds of thousands of signatures for the successful initiative that created Florida Forever, a $100-million state fund for the environment. Joan and Jim collected 2,500 signatures and recruited others of the top collectors, too.
- Gun safety, a complex and frustrating issue that has demanded long-term LWV commitment. The LWV spearheaded a state-wide coalition for gun safety. Joan’s commitment to gun safety landed her in jail in 2018, with a small group advocating a ban on assault weapons and related issues. The protest sit-in (not an LWV event) was staged shortly after Orlando’s Pulse massacre. Joan and other members of the group were charged with trespassing, arrested, handcuffed, hauled to jail in a paddy wagon, and detained overnight. “It was a real learning experience,” Joan says.
- Leadership development. Many LWV leaders credit Joan with inspiring them to join the League. “I love to recruit people to put their passion to work,” Joan says. “I love to find people who say, ‘What can one person do?’ and challenge them find their passion and join the League so we can work on it together. Do the thing you love because it really feeds your soul, and together we will have a blast.”
- LWVOC Membership support. During Joan’s tenure, the LWVOC has grown to one of the largest local Leagues in the nation, in part because of the tireless support of members like Joan, who sits on the LWVOC Board of Directors. She often works through the Membership Committee to strengthen League management and generate support.
With Joy Wallace Dickinson, Joan co-chairs the History Committee, established to celebrate the LWVOC’s 80th birthday and the centennial of women’s right to vote. The committee works to harness history to inform and inspire the LWVOC.
Of all the remarkable accomplishments of the LWVOC over Joan’s tenure, she is most proud of the History Committee’s 2019 book, Warriors for Democracy. Joan spearheaded the group that published the book, which tells the story of the first 80 years of the LWVOC. As she thinks back over the history of the League and her role in it, “I am just happy to have had a small hand in it,” Joan said.