The stories of Tennesseans’ roles within the women’s suffrage movement are at the heart of the 8,000 square-foot, two-gallery exhibition at the Tennessee State Museum.
Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right Vote, the Tennessee State Museum’s exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, originally scheduled to close this spring, will be extended through September 26, 2021.
A note from Tennessee State Museum:
“The extension will allow visitors who have been unable to visit the museum extra time to explore Tennessee’s historic role in the ratification of the 19th amendment,” said Ashley Howell, Tennessee State Museum executive director. “Our COVID safety measures remain in place during this time, and we’ll continue to follow CDC and local and state health official guidance as we move into the spring and summer months. I hope is that everyone who has wanted to see the show will have had that opportunity by the fall of 2021.”
In August of 1920, the nation’s eyes were on Tennessee. The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote throughout the country, had passed at the federal level a year earlier, and was making its way through state legislatures for ratification. It needed 36 states to approve it, and was stalled at 35. Tennessee was its best hope for ratification. The final vote for ratification at the State Capitol in Nashville on August 18, 1920 was historic not only in its outcome, but for its thrilling 11th-hour circumstances and the great uncertainty surrounding that outcome. There is, of course, much more to the story.
In Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote, curated by assistant chief curator Miranda Fraley Rhodes, Ph.D., the Tennessee State Museum explores the circumstances in and around Nashville that August, but also delves into the story of women’s suffrage throughout the entire state of Tennessee in the decades leading up to the vote – and its impact on the century that followed.
From the state’s beginnings, women found ways to express their political views. In the 1840s, a national women’s suffrage movement began to develop in the North, with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention – the first women’s rights convention held in the United States – acting as the movement’s launch event. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, Tennessee suffragists took up the cause and spent many years building the movement within the state despite considerable opposition.
Together with the stories of those women who represented the movement on the national stage, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony in its earliest days, and Ida B. Wells, Catherine Chapman Catt and Alice Paul later, the exhibition highlights the stories of suffragists throughout Tennessee. Visitors will learn about the activities of the Maryville College Equal Suffrage Club, the Tullahoma Equal Suffrage League, and a suffrage parade in McKenzie that included “a column of young boys and girls afoot, waving balloons and banners…” Across the state in cities, towns, and rural communities, women like Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, Juno Frankie Pierce and Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville, and Lillian Perrine Davis of Lexington, among many others, worked to further the cause, despite much opposition.
Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote is told through six major sections that include Women’s Search for Political Rights, Why Women Want the Vote, Tennessee Suffragists, Women Gain the Vote, Changing the Political System. A final section will provide an opportunity for visitors to watch a film and reflect on the history of the suffrage movement. The exhibition uses artifacts, documents, archival photos, large-scale graphics, videos, interactive elements and public programming to share the stories of the Tennesseans who came to have decisive roles in American women’s struggle to gain voting rights. Further information about the exhibition and related events, including 100th anniversary commemorations of the ratification of the 19th Amendment will be posted on the Museum’s website at