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Women’s Suffrage: We Have A Vision: Nashville Women from the Centennial to Suffrage
In partnership with the Parthenon, Centennial Park Conservancy will present a new exhibition, We Have a Vision: Nashville Women from the Centennial to Suffrage – Kate Kirkman, Anne Dallas Dudley, Kate Burch Warner and Frankie Pierce. Located in the West Gallery, the exhibit will use garments that belonged to Kate Kirkman from the 1890s and the 1910s to anchor an examination of her role and that of the Woman’s Department at the Exposition in fostering a conversation about women’s suffrage that continued beyond the dates of the Exposition.
Kate Thompson Kirkman, Chair of the Woman’s Department at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, led a committee of socially prominent and active women from across the state in organizing a building and contents that showcased the accomplishments of Tennessee women. The Woman’s Department hired architect Sara Ward Conley to design the building and invited speakers of national prominence to discuss social and political issues that were in the forefront of nationwide debates. Among those speakers was Susan B. Anthony, and her speech at the Exposition concerned the right of women to vote. Kirkman and her committee were not always in agreement with the positions of the speakers they invited—in fact, Kirkman eventually joined those opposed to women’s suffrage—but they made a space for the discussions to take place.
The exhibition also considers the work of three other women of different ages and backgrounds whose work in the cause of equal suffrage helped insure ratification of the 19th amendment by the Tennessee state legislature in August 1920. Ratification passed by one vote, making Tennessee the 36th and final state necessary for the amendment to become law.
Anne Dallas Dudley was a mother and a society leader who was able to combat the stereotype of suffragists as man-hating radicals. Her financial resources and gift of diplomacy allowed her to travel and speak across the country in support of women’s right to vote. She helped organize and lead suffrage parades in 1914, 1915, and 1916 from near the capitol to Centennial Park, where she spoke to more than 2,000 people from the steps of the Parthenon.
Kate Burch Warner, a generation older than Dudley, also moved in well-to-do social circles. She used her organizational skills to strengthen state-wide suffrage organizations and gave the keynote address at the 1916 suffrage march. Articulate and persuasive, she was Governor A.H. Roberts’ choice to lead Tennessee’s Ratification Committee.
African American leader J Frankie Pierce was a fierce advocate for education along with other causes such as childcare, settlement houses, and voting rights. She helped organize women through churches and social clubs to press for changes that would improve the lives of African Americans in Nashville. When Tennessee lawmakers, in an effort to forestall the federal equal suffrage law, gave women a limited right to vote in local elections, Pierce and her colleague Dr. Mattie Coleman registered more than two-thousand voters. Her eloquence and stature in the community were recognized when she was invited to speak at the May 1920 state suffrage convention in the house chamber of the Tennessee state capitol.
With Kate Kirkman’s garments as a material lens to illustrate that change is enacted by real people, We Have a Vision: Nashville Women from the Centennial to Suffrage will connect Susan B. Anthony’s speech at the Centennial Exposition Woman’s Building with the May Day marches for women’s right to vote that led from the Capitol to the Parthenon (1914 – 1916) and with the ratification of the 19th amendment. Additional objects, such as rare photographs of the Woman’s Building and the women who are the focus of the exhibit, souvenirs, and music from the Exposition, and a ballot box from 1920, have been loaned by Nashville collector and historian David Ewing.
Source: Official Website
$4/Seniors (over 62)
Contact: (615) 862-8431
INDIVIDUAL DATES & TIMES*
Additional time info:
A virtual gallery reception will be held on Centennial Park Conservancy’s Facebook page on Thursday, July 23 at 6pm.
Check with the Parthenon for closures or changes to the schedule.