Tennessee figured prominently in the quest for woman suffrage when a young man’s vote in the Tennessee Legislature, Aug. 1920, changed the course of political history for Tennessee and the nation.
Young Harry Burn of Athens cast the tie-breaking vote that made Tennessee the 36th and final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment, thus giving women across the nation the right to vote.
The public is invited to a program at the East Tennessee History Center on Sunday, March 18, as leading scholars discuss the suffrage movement in Tennessee and the important work of the women who rallied to win the support of the people and the legislature. The program is free and open to the public and is hosted locally by the East Tennessee Historical Society
At 1 p.m., Dr. Marjorie J. Spruill will trace the history of the woman suffrage movement from its early roots to the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment through which women gained universal suffrage in the United States. A Distinguished Professor Emerita from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Spruill is well known for her work on women and politics, from the woman suffrage movement to the present and on the history of the American South. Her books on the subject include: New Women of the New South: The Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States, named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five most important books about woman suffrage and an anthology, One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement, a companion volume to the PBS documentary, One Woman, One Vote, in which she appeared.
At 2 p.m., there will be a Woman Suffrage in Tennessee: The Continuing Legacy program. Who were the women who believed that Tennessee, a Southern state mired in racial politics about voting, could ratify an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would give women across the country the right to vote? Dr. Carole Bucy will discuss the women who worked for ratification and the collective nature of their efforts that led to triumph in Aug. 1920, a flame of women’s rights that continued to burn in the years between suffrage and the fight for the Equal Rights amendment in the 1970s. A professor of history at Volunteer State Community College, Carole holds an appointment as the Davidson County Historian and is a frequent speaker on subjects related to women’s, as well as state and local history.
3 p.m. will feature a “Showdown in Knoxville.” While working for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, Wanda Sobieski was surprised to learn that many of the arguments against it were earlier employed in opposition to woman suffrage. What began for her as a research journey to understand the parallels soon led to a lifelong pursuit of the subject. Wanda will discuss events in Knoxville and the city’s role in turning the tide of southern resistance against woman suffrage. An attorney in Knoxville, Sobieski holds both a master’s degree and a doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee. She spearheaded the successful efforts to erect the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Memorial statue on Market Square in Knoxville and is a passionate collector of suffrage objects and memorabilia.

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