The Heroines

Lorraine Thiessen

is honored with a Brick from Nancy Kassebaum Baker


The archives of Wichita’s League of Women Voters are filled with records that document the contributions of Lorraine Thiessen. The League of Women Voters is an 85-year-old nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to promoting informed and active participation of citizens in the political process. Its uniquely decentralized structure has created a long history of citizens working on issues of importance to their communities and states.

Lorraine’s organizational skills and leadership talents were a vital asset to the League during the 1960s and 1970s, a time of great change in both Wichita and the nation. She served two terms as League president (1963-65) and continued to be an active member for many more years.

Enforcement of the city’s housing codes was a critical issue to the League in the early 1960s, during Lorraine’s years as president. “We believe that more vigorous enforcement of our housing code is not altruism but enlightened self-interest,” Lorraine wrote in a letter to the editor of the Wichita Eagle-Beacon. Pointing out that a League study revealed over 14,000 substandard housing units in Wichita, Lorraine went on to write that “Editorials such as this one help to educate citizens to the problem, which in turn, allows us all to work toward intelligent, creative solutions to the problem.”

Other issues studied by the League under Lorraine’s leadership were consolidation of city-county governments, merger of Wichita University into the state university system, and how to increase the number of women voters.

Lorraine’s commitment to political process led her the to join the 1978 campaign to elect Nancy Landon Kassebaum to the U.S. Senate. She became part of a core group of women who tirelessly worked on Nancy’s behalf during her re-election campaigns in 1984 and 1990.

Lorraine “Larry” Ross was born December 9, 1929 in Whitewater, Kansas. She attended the University of Kansas, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and graduated in 1951. She married Patrick Thiessen and they had three daughters — Evan, Chris and Ann — and one son — Mark. Their married life began in Hutchinson where Patrick was Reno County Attorney, before they moved to Wichita. Lorraine’s numerous volunteer activities also include participating in the Junior League of Wichita and supporting the Kappa Alpha Theta alumni organization.

In addition to her dedication to family and community, Lorraine is also known for her love of basketball, and she is a noted cook and baker.