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Women in politics made front-page news in Tennessee. During the long struggle for voting rights, Tennesseans throughout the state debated roles for women in public life. Click on a county — or use the dropdown menu if you’re on a mobile device — to explore stories about women’s political activities throughout the state, both before and after the state’s ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Choose a County to explore Ratified! Statewide! stories.
Anderson County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
A Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter formed in Coal Creek in 1896. The Anderson County Woman’s Improvement Association was active by 1919. The Anderson County News kept readers informed about the suffrage movement in the state and nation.
Shelbyville Group, 1880s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
President Juliet Ryall Ashley led The Equal Suffrage League of Shelbyville. They reported: “Shelbyville is a very conservative town and many of the people bitterly prejudiced against suffrage….The idea of the people originally was that suffragists would be loud and conspicuous in everything that they did, and we, therefore, have not had any parades with brass bands or given any public speakings.”
Benton County Court House, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In June 1911, a suffrage speech by W.F. Collier from a debate held at Erin High School was front page news in the Camden Chronicle. Collier presented multiple arguments in favor of women’s suffrage, including asking “if women are workers then why not voters, for the ballot is the only public defense a defenseless woman can have?”
Outside the Bledsoe County Courthouse during a Fourth of July Parade, about 1925, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
E.W. Haston who represented Bledsoe County in the Tennessee Senate voted in favor of the 19th Amendment along with most of his colleagues. Previously, women’s suffrage measures had faced fierce opposition in the Senate, and the senators’ change in perspective was key to the amendment’s success.
Mary Wilson McTeer, courtesy of Maryville College
Mary Wilson McTeer served as both the president of the local woman suffrage league in Maryville and corresponding secretary for the Tennessee Equal Rights Association. When she passed away, she requested to be buried with yellow and white suffrage emblems.
Bradley County Courthouse, 1930s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives
A public meeting of about 100 people occurred in Cleveland to protest the Tennessee legislature’s ratification of the 19th Amendment and state representative J. H. Simpson, who voted in favor of this. Representative Simpson attended the meeting to defend his action.
Legislative Petition, No. 61, 1841, from the Women of Campbell County, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In 1841, Campbell County women submitted a petition to the state legislature asking for the sale of alcohol to be restricted or eliminated. Jellico women organized a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter in 1896.
Legislative Petition, No. 8, from the Women of Cannon County, 1837, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In 1837, Cannon County women submitted a temperance petition to the Tennessee General Assembly asking for “the suppression of the many hundreds of tippling houses, that are exerting their deadly influence through our beloved state” which were “the unquestionable sources of three fourths of all the crime, wretchedness and misery in our land.” Eighty women signed this petition.
Woman with a spinning wheel, Carroll County, about 1910, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Carroll County formed suffrage leagues in both McKenzie and Huntingdon. These groups sponsored joint events in favor of a national suffrage amendment including a parade in McKenzie with children carrying banners supporting votes for their mothers.
Employees of Elizabethton Hosiery Mill, 1922, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Elizabethton formed a local suffrage league that affiliated with the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, Inc. Its officers included “Mrs. Harlow S. Dixon, President. Mrs. John H. Tipton, Vice-President. Mrs. Walter P. Dungan, Secretary and Treasurer.”
Hagewood Family of Cheatham County, about 1903, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Ashland City organized a local suffrage league. Helen B. Turner was a noted suffragist from this community. Both the state senator and the state representative for Cheatham County voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.
Chester County Court House, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In 1884, women formed a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Henderson. Later, this community also featured a local suffrage league. Both the state senator and representative for this county voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.
McNeil House in Claiborne County, 1920, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Some women in Claiborne County worked for temperance and the prohibition of alcohol. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters formed in the community of Cumberland Gap in 1896 and in Tazewell in 1900.
Family from Oak Grove Community on their way to church, 1922, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The local newspaper Bill Fiske’s Bugle supported women voting. An editorial on women’s participation in the November 1920 election stated: “Did the Women vote? Yes; they voted. Did they vote intelligently? Yes; they voted as intelligently as anybody else….Why should they not? They have equally as much sense as the men….”
Boyer Family of Newport, shown in front of their home, about 1902, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Mrs. T.H. Campbell owned and edited The Newport Plain Talk newspaper. On May 13, 1914, she explained, “The Plain Talk does not believe that women should be allowed the privilege of voting, but is heartily in sympathy with the recent law which allows women to do business in their own name. Business is not contaminating, while politics are.”
Two women on a swing, Tullahoma, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Manchester and Tullahoma each featured a local suffrage league. The Tullahoma Equal Suffrage League sponsored events at the Dixie Theater and City Park. They also conducted a house-by-house effort to collect suffrage pledge cards from their neighbors which they used to demonstrate support for women’s voting rights to their U.S. congressman.
Bells Consolidated Rosenwald School, August 1926, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
During the 1920s, African American women in rural communities were active in raising money to improve their children’s schools. Local African Americans donated $2050 towards the construction of Bells Consolidated Rosenwald School, which was more than a third of the building’s total cost.
Parade Scene in Crossville, 1905, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
On September 8, 1920, the Crossville Chronicle featured an editorial article written by a woman identified as “O.B.” She criticized the continuing disputes over the 19th Amendment and stated “How can any intelligent person say…that women should have no voice in the government of their county, state and nation? If this be true then women property owners should be exempted from taxes….”
Nettie Langston Napier was an African American activist and suffragist in Nashville who fought for the rights of African American women in the early 1900s and became treasure of the National Association of Colored Women. courtesy of Fisk University, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library, Special Collections
African American women in Nashville were active in the suffrage movement. In March 1913, the Nashville Teachers’ Library and Benefit Association sponsored a debate on women’s suffrage at the Majestic Theatre. Sophia A. Jackson, described by The Nashville Globe as “one of the ablest woman speakers among the city school teachers,” was one of the pro-suffrage debaters.
Composite Photograph, 61st General Assembly, House of Representatives, by Calvert Brothers, 1919 to 1920, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Legislators representing Decatur County supported women’s suffrage. Both state senator R.L. Stockard and state representative Joseph F. Odle voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment
Callie Davenport and her son Charlie, of DeKalb County, about 1910, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Smithville women formed a local suffrage league. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment, T.J. Potter wrote in The Smithville Review: “The women have always had a great and powerful influence in the building of this great county and I hope that they may be able to point us to higher standards of politics, morals, religion, and trade.”
Harvey Family of Dickson County, about 1895, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In September 1915, an “Equal Suffrage Rally” was held in Dickson. This event was chaired by Senator J.A. Clement and included speeches by suffragists like Catherine Kenny of Nashville. More than half of the persons attending completed pledge cards stating they supported votes for women. An effort was also made at this meeting to create a local suffrage league.
Members of the Nichols Family, Dressed for a Parade, early 1900s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Dyer County women created Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters in both Newbern and RoEllen. In 1913, local residents formed a Women’s Club. Dyersburg women also organized a suffrage league.
Fayette County Courthouse, late 1800s to early 1900s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In October 1915, a suffrage event with speakers attracted a large audience at the courthouse in Somerville. This event sparked the formation of a local suffrage league. Somerville women also worked to help create a suffrage organization in Whiteville.
Alvin C. York and Gracie Williams on their wedding day, June 7, 1919, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Suffragists honored Gracie Williams on the occasion of her marriage to World War I hero Alvin C. York. A Knoxville newspaper reported that the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Association decided at a meeting in June 1919 to present her with a pin.
Moore Family, Huntland, about 1910, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Franklin County women were active in the temperance movement. They formed Woman Christian Temperance Union chapters in Winchester, Cowan, and Huntland.
Watt Family, Gibson County, early 1900s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in this county formed suffrage leagues in Trenton, Humboldt, and Milan. The league in Humboldt reported on the positive effect of an event featuring a suffrage speaker. The Trenton league experienced rapid growth from 25 to 125 members and held a suffrage benefit at a local movie theater.
Ideal Art Club, Pulaski, about 1924, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Pulaski women had a local suffrage league for adult women and a suffrage club at the high school. Martin Methodist College students also had a league with more than 60 members. Pulaski suffragists met in the Giles County Courthouse, went house to house visiting their neighbors, shared suffrage publications, and made a record of each family’s views on votes for women.
Grainger County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Grainger County News was a pro-suffrage and pro-Republican Party newspaper. It claimed opposition to women’s suffrage was limited to the Democratic Party. This paper also published an article on July 14, 1920, emphasizing that women receiving the right to vote would support white supremacy.
Aerial View of Tusculum College, 1941, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
According to the Greeneville Sun, in October 1919, the Tusculum College chapel service featured a pro-suffrage speaker, Dr. M.L. Fox. He explained that he supported votes for women and encouraged female students to learn about public speaking. He explained: “Women must train to take part in public affairs if their votes are to be worth anything, and hence must have training in speaking.”
Pelham School, about 1915, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
According to a local newspaper, numerous Tracy City residents attended an Indignation Meeting protesting the 19th Amendment’s ratification. This meeting featured speakers, including E.C. Norvell, who represented Grundy County in the Tennessee House and voted against ratification. Meeting attendees “passed resolutions condemning the action of Governor A.H. Roberts and Kenneth McKellar in trying to force Woman’s Suffrage on the people of Tennessee….”
Morristown, 1912, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In 1913, the Tennessee Equal Suffrage League held its annual meeting in Morristown led by local suffragist Hannah Price. Catherine Kenny wrote, “during the evening program a can of vile-smelling sul[f]uric acid was hurled through the window at [Anne Dallas] Dudley as she was addressing the convention and barely missed her. With quiet composure one of the delegates removed the offensive can and the speaker proceeded.
Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, Courtesy of the Chattanooga Public Library and university of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections
In May 1916, Chattanooga suffragists hung a banner reading “Tennessee Leads the South, The State Federation, Republican and Democratic Parties Endorse Woman Suffrage” across one of the city’s central roads. The police took the banner down and confiscated it. Suffragists asked for its return, and a local business agreed to hang the banner on its storefront.
Hancock County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In August 1921, the Sneedville News published a letter pointing out the need to recognize women as voters when discussing local issues. The author explained “perhaps it has not occurred to Mr. Morgan that since woman suffrage is in full swing in Hancock County some woman may have decided she was being cheated and” written the newspaper to protest against the bad road conditions.
Parade Float for Flatt Plains School, Hardeman County, 1911, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
African American and white women in Hardeman County established Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters. Later, suffrage leagues formed in both Bolivar and Whiteville. The Bolivar League discussed the Women’s Journal at meetings. They welcomed a visit from Anne Dallas Dudley, then serving as the president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, Inc.
Charter Members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Savannah, TN, 1897, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Hardin County participated actively in the World War I effort by supporting their local Red Cross Auxiliary. This group produced items like sweaters, mittens, pajamas, comfort bags, and bandages for soldiers. Savannah women joined the temperance movement and formed a local suffrage league.
Women in Hawkins County participated actively in the temperance cause. A Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter formed in Rogersville in 1885. Women in Goshen created another chapter of this group in 1900.
Callery Family, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In May 1916, the Brownsville States-Graphic reported “The sentiment for suffrage for women is gaining ground in Tennessee faster than in any other southern state….When Tennessee women go after anything they generally get it, and it is only a question of time till they gain this victory.”
Street Scene of Square in Lexington, TN, March 1903, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In November 1916, Lexington suffrage leader Lillian Perrine Davis wrote: “While the league[s] in the cities have been able to do the most spectacular work, the reports from the smaller towns show that they have caught the ‘suffrage spirit,’ and show a steady progress along conservative lines.”
Teachers Institute, Henry County, June 1913. During this time when many teachers did not have college degrees, teacher institutes were important training opportunities. Notice the large number of women among the group. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives.
After Tennessee women gained presidential and municipal suffrage in 1919, Mrs. A.E. Rison of Paris stated: “I think it is a woman’s Christian duty to vote. I never sought the vote, but…women have to do it now….If we expect to put reforms through, we must back them up with our vote. Women ought to vote whether they want to or not.”
Three Women at the Tennessee Products Plant, Wrigley, about 1916, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In September 1915, a suffrage rally was held in Centerville that included a motor car parade, luncheon, and a “mass meeting at the opera house.” This event inspired the formation of a local suffrage league which initially included over twenty-five members who enrolled on the day of the rally.
Women in Erin formed a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter in 1896. State Senator J.W. Rice and Representative William Swift, who represented Houston County in the Tennessee General Assembly, both voted against ratifying the 19th Amendment.
Humphreys County Courthouse, 1930s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Humphreys County were active in the temperance movement. They formed Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters in Waverly and Hustburg in 1887. Waverly women formed a local suffrage league, and Anne Parks served as president.
Political Parade in Honor of William Jennings Bryan, Gainesboro, about 1902, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In February 1917, Josephine Miller of Little Rock, Arkansas delivered a lecture on suffrage at the Jackson County Courthouse. Following her speech, local women created their own suffrage organization, which included the “leading ladies of Gainesboro.”
Booklet, “Descriptions of the Comfort Garments required for the Men of the Navy and Marine Corps,” by The Navy League of the United States, 1917
Jefferson County women actively supported the World War I effort. In January 1918, The Jefferson County News published an appeal from the Community Knitting Club for donations. The group had spent more than $150 for wool yarn to make clothing for U.S. soldiers. In addition to supporting the war effort, Jefferson City women also formed a local suffrage league.
Female Red Cross Members Working at a Publicity Booth during World War I, 1917 to 1918, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Johnson County women supported the Red Cross to help the World War I effort. According to the Johnson County News, the Butler Red Cross auxiliary had more than 150 members. Women collected items to be recycled, like women’s kid leather gloves used to make vests for U.S. airmen. They also knitted items like sweaters and gloves needed by soldiers.
Lizzie Crozier French, about 1890, courtesy of C.M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library
According to The Knoxville Independent, Lizzie Crozier French gave the first public address by a woman suffragist on a Knoxville street in February 1917. Labor activists had long employed street speaking to publicize their cause. Suffragists, especially in the South, often hesitated to use this tactic because of the continuing sentiment against women speaking in public.
Lake County Courthouse, Tiptonville, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Both Senator D.P. Caldwell and Representative Dr. J. Frank Griffin voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.
Durhamville School Students and Teachers, 1913, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Lauderdale County women were active in both the temperance and suffrage movements. They created Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters in Durhamville and Ripley. Women in Ripley later formed a local suffrage league.
Temperance Songbook, The White Ribbon Hymnal or Echoes of the Crusade
In September 1913, J.G. Woolsey wrote: “Woman suffrage will not start a revolution in our alcoholic civilization, but it will fortify and quicken the evolution of personal abstinence and political Prohibition….the liquor dealer dreads, instinctively, to try conclusions with [women] at the ballot box. No public question can dangle long unsettled, once it assumes the form of mothers fighting for their young.”
Flatrock School Students, 1907, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The day after the Tennessee House of Representative voted to ratify the 19th Amendment, The Lewis County Herald declared: “The women of the U.S. are now legal voters and all political crooks had a[s] well get down and out if they do what they are and have been promising for several decades and here’s hoping they will.”
Hutchinson Family, Fayetteville, early 1900s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Claire B. Buckner served as the president of the Fayetteville Equal Suffrage League. This group used the prize money they won for the best decorated automobile in the July Fourth parade to fund their membership in the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, Inc. They also organized an effort to acquire their own suffrage banner.
John C. Houk, courtesy of the Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Women in Lenoir City formed a local suffrage league. State Senator John C. Houk voted in favor of the 19th Amendment. During the Senate debate on the amendment, he declared that voting rights for women were an issue of “right and justice.”
Women in Lafayette formed a local suffrage league. State Senator J.W. Murrey voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment. In contrast, Representative James D. McMurray voted against the amendment.
Madison County Courthouse, late 1800s to early 1900s, Tennessee State Library & Archives
Mary E. Butler led Jackson suffragists. During 1914, suffragists held a May Day celebration including speeches at a local restaurant. In 1915, they staffed a booth at the West Tennessee Fair and hosted the state convention of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, Inc.
Marion County Courthouse, Jasper, courtesy of Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Jasper formed a local suffrage league. Women’s voting rights was a contested issue between two local newspapers. The Sequatch[i]e Valley News declared: The News is glad…that the women of the entire nation can now vote. Unlike the [South Pittsburgh] Hustler it is for them. The mothers of the land assuredly are as worthy of a vote as their sons.”
Zola Mary Coffey with her family’s Buick Touring Car, the first in her neighborhood in Liberty Valley, 1917, Tennessee State Library & Archives
In 1839, Marshall County women petitioned the Tennessee General Assembly in opposition to the proposed repeal of a law requiring “tippling houses” that served alcohol to be licensed. They argued the licensing law had benefitted their community. Later, Lewisburg women formed a local suffrage league.
Maury County Women, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
On August 20, 1920, The Columbia Herald reported: “Miss Carolyn Williams, one of the original advocates of equal suffrage in Columbia and an officer of the state organization, expressed intense gratification over the result when informed of the action of the [H]ouse on Wednesday….the news from Nashville, she felt, was the happy culmination of the long struggle.”
Liberty Hill School, 1906, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
African American and white women in Athens participated in Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters. Anna Neal Childress led a local suffrage league. Harry T. Burn, state representative credited with a critical vote in favor of the 19th Amendment, was from McMinn County. In contrast, his mentor State Senator H.M. Chandler was one of the few senators who voted against ratification.
McNairy County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Selmer women formed a local suffrage league. State Representative John P. Sipes of McNairy County voted against ratifying the 19th Amendment. However, in October 1920, he tried to appeal to women voters writing: “The good women in this county stand for good moral and honest government, they stand for the church and the Sabbath patriotism and American ballot.”
Mary Shadow, Tennessee State Representative for Meigs County, 1949, courtesy of Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Meigs County Sun honored the Tennessee Woman’s Christian Temperance Union president Silena Moore Holman, who helped lead the successful campaign for statewide prohibition. The paper also reported on President Woodrow Wilson’s support for women’s suffrage. By 1949, Meigs County chose Mary Ermlich Shadow, one of the early women to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly, as its state representative.
Monroe County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Sweetwater formed a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1887. Political leaders representing this county supported women’s suffrage. Both State Senator John C. Houk and State Representative Emerson O. Luther voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.
Lucy G. Drane Driving a Buick on West Avenue in Clarksville, 1909, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, a May 4, 1922 editorial from “A WOMAN VOTER,” asked: “The law of woman suffrage has been passed in Tennessee. ... then why is it, that as Christians, we are advised not to vote, to trample under foot the laws made by our fathers, husbands, and brothers, which we are expected to uphold?... I appeal to you, women, for the good of humanity cast your vote….”
Moore County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Lynchburg created a local suffrage league. Roy H. Parks was one of the few state senators to vote against ratifying the 19th Amendment. Larkin M. Whitaker in the House also voted against the amendment. This suggests suffragists faced a lot of opposition in this county.
Miners and Family Members, Morgan County, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
After ratification, women voters in Morgan County were recognized as key to elections. The Morgan County Press declared “the man who is opposed to woman suffrage is a back number.” In 1922, the paper predicted “women are taking more interest in politics than Mr. Peay gives them credit for….They are going to vote, all right, but the majority of them are not going to vote for Mr. Peay.”
Mrs. Thompson and her daughter Bonnie, in Elbridge, about 1918, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Union City women established an active local suffrage league in 1915. In September 1920, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters in Obion County declared: “…woman must share her part in political burdens of the County, State and Nation…it therefore behooves us not to pass politics unnoticed, but to give it careful and prayerful study that we may cast our vote intelligently.”
Red Cross Nurse Armband
Overton County women contributed to the World War I effort. They divided their work for the Red Cross into different branches, producing bandages, sewing items for soldiers, and knitting garments like socks. They also sold fancy needlework items to raise funds for war work.
The Perry County News reported, “If the prediction had have been made ten years ago, that by the year 1914, eleven states of this union would have granted their women equal suffrage, it would have met with nationwide ridicule.” In 1920, Representative Thomas O. Simpson voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.
Tennessee State Senator W.J. Matthews voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment. In contrast, Representative Stephen E. Frogge voted against ratification.
Polk County Courthouse, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Polk County News editor criticized “the thirty-one members of the legislature, who broke a quorum of the body by fleeing to Decatur Ala., in violation of the felony Statu[t]e of 1913” during the controversy in the Tennessee House of Representatives over ratification. The editor noted some argued this law violated the state’s constitution but concluded “if it is unconstitutional, it shouldn’t be.”
Sewing Club, shown on porch of Rutledge Family home in Cookeville, about 1911, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
In February 1917, Clara Cox Epperson published an anti-suffrage editorial on the front page of the Putnam County Herald. She explained, “personally, I do not want the ballot, nor do I think it will be the solution of the evils of the present day.” Epperson argued women should remain outside politics and when necessary rely on persuasion to convince politicians to support their causes.
Rhea Springs School, about 1911, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Dayton were active workers in the temperance cause. They created Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters in Dayton, Spring City, and Graysville.
Harriman High School, Class of 1908, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Harriman created a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter in 1890 and later formed a local suffrage league. Prominent Tennessee suffragist Catherine Wester was originally from Kingston. She served as treasurer of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association.
Minnie Polk, Teacher, at Porters School, about 1915, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
A Springfield indignation meeting protested the 19th Amendment’s ratification. Flyers announced: “Let every man and woman who opposes the effort that is being made to destroy the last vestige of state’s rights come and make protest against this modern fallacy and against the high-handed and outrageous policy of time servers and political pirates who are trying to rob the people of their constitutional rights.”
Mary Ellen Vaughn, Murfreesboro newspaper owner and civil rights advocate, 1926, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Murfreesboro Equal Suffrage League collected the signatures of local politicians, business leaders, and residents on suffrage petitions. In 1916, the league stated: “A few years ago, there weren’t two men in the city who apparently stood for us, and nearly all these men have promised to stand by us and vote right when the opportunity presents itself.”
Florence Todd, Discing a Field, about 1927, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Scott County actively participated in the temperance movement. They started a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter at Robbins in 1889.
Representative Ernest C. Norvell who represented Sequatchie County voted against ratifying the 19th Amendment. Some anti-suffrage House members temporarily fled the state to avoid having a quorum to vote on the amendment when it was brought for reconsideration in the House.
Laurel Grove Baptist Church Congregation, Walden Creek, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Sevier County Republican and the Sevier County Record criticized the legislature’s conduct during the 1920 special session. The newspaper stated: “After mixing and mussing up the woman’s suffrage amendment until forty lawyers could not tell head nor tail of it the Tennessee solons voted themselves $100 extra pay, shook hands with themselves and adjourned.”
Tennessee State Representative Marion Griffin, Shelby County, 1923, Tennessee State Library & Archives
Memphis women formed the first local suffrage league in the state and eventually established at least four documented suffrage leagues in Shelby County. Annie Stephenson Morgan explained she wanted to vote because “we have never consented to child labor for one second, yet we have never been able to prevent manufacturers evading laws designed to restrain their avarice and greed.”
Tennessee Woman’s Press and Authors Club Annual Meeting, Sebowisha, 1911, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Smith County women formed suffrage leagues in Dixon Springs and Carthage. The Equal Suffrage League of Dixon Springs reported, “We have kept our cause well before our public and have been fortunate in meeting only good will. We have eighteen members. Our Congressman, Mr. Hull, has been made aware of our existence and of our strong desire for his support.”
Stewart County Courthouse, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The state senator and representative for Stewart County disagreed on the issue of suffrage. Senator J.W. Rice was one of the few senators who voted against ratifying the 19th Amendment. Representative Pinckney P. Fitzhugh voted in favor of the amendment.
Photograph of Anne Lee Worley from the book "Tennessee, the Volunteer State, 1769-1923," Volume 2, by John Trotwood Moore & Austin Powers Foster and courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Anne Lee Worley of Bluff City became one of the first women to serve as a state senator in 1921 when she won a special election to fill her deceased husband’s office. She successfully sponsored a bill in the Senate which removed all limitations on women holding public offices in Tennessee.
Family of Mrs. Andrew Etta Frakes, about 1885, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Gallatin Equal Suffrage League promoted their cause through a variety of community activities like school essay contests. They reported, “A Federal Amendment Demonstration was held in Central High School October 21st. Both men and women speakers participated, and a good audience was present.”
Faculty and Students, Frazier School, Covington, early 1900s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Covington formed a local suffrage league. All three legislators, one senator and two representatives, voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment and were honored by Tennessee suffragists for their support.
Pin, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, late 1800s to early 1900s
Women in Trousdale County were active in both the temperance and suffrage movements. They formed a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapter in Hartsville in 1884, and later established a local suffrage league.
Both of the legislators representing Unicoi County in the Tennessee General Assembly supported suffrage. Senator Collins C. Collins and Representative Wesley S. Tucker voted in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.
Union County Courthouse, early 1900s, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Young women from Union County contributed to the World War I effort by joining the Junior Red Cross Chapter. This group made a variety of medical supplies for U.S. soldiers and civilian garments for the relief of Belgian civilians devastated by the war.
Members of a Burritt College Debating Club, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Spencer is remarkable for its place in the history of southern women’s education. In 1848, Burritt College, one of the first colleges in the South to accept both female and male students, was established there. Its founding coincided with the beginnings of the national suffrage movement during this decade.
McMinnville Tomato Club, about 1914, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives
McMinnville women participated in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1887, they urged, “Vote for the amendment September 29th and close the saloons, and by every means in your power prevent the drinking of alcoholics, and give the children of the next generation a chance to live out their allotted days.” Women in this community later formed a local suffrage league.
Two Washington County Women during the ratification summer, July 1920, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Jonesborough and Johnson City formed local suffrage leagues in each community. Mary Shaut White of Johnson City served as an officer for the Congressional Union, which later became the National Woman’s Party. A local newspaper reported on a meeting she had with Alice Paul in 1916.
Book, American Women and the World War, by Ida Clyde Clark
The people of Waynesboro were active in supporting the Red Cross during World War I. Women in this community also formed a local suffrage league.
Fannie Cupp, Sharon community telephone operator, 1905, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
The Dresden Equal Suffrage League held a Federal Amendment Day celebration in 1916 featuring “a splendid parade, composed of young girls riding horseback and dressed in white with yellow sashes and badges with “Votes for Women,” [next] came the boys on horses followed by beautifully decorated pony buggies, and then the automobiles decorated in yellow.”
Political Rally, White County Courthouse Square, about 1900, courtesy of the State Library & Archives
Women in Sparta actively participated in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1920, they held a celebration in honor of their chapter’s sixteenth anniversary that included a special collection in which each member contributed a penny for each year of her age.
Students as the Franklin Female Institute, about 1900, courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Women in Williamson County formed two Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters, one in Fairview another at Glen Mary. Franklin women later formed a local suffrage league.
Wilson County women were active in the temperance movement. African American and white women formed local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union chapters. Women in both Lebanon and Watertown also created local suffrage leagues.
Ratified! Statewide! is an online component of the Tennessee State Museum exhibition, Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote, which opens July 31, 2020..
Works Cited: Click this Link for a full list of works cited for the Ratified! Statewide! project.