Tennessee Lawyers Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Ratification of the 19th Amendment

Women march for the right to vote in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives

In August 1920, the nation’s attention was on Tennessee. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote, had passed at the federal level a year earlier, and was making its way through state legislatures for ratification. Final approval required 36 states to approve the amendment. The effort had stalled at 35. Tennessee presented the best hope for ratification. And it delivered. The final vote came on Aug. 18, 1920.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of that ratification —  a historic moment that provides us a unique opportunity to celebrate a milestone in our democracy. The TBA is recognized the anniversary during its 2020 Virtual Convention.  Among the offered was a presentation by award-winning journalist and writer Elaine Weiss, whose most recent book, “The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote,” chronicles the economic, racial and political opposition suffragists faced in the months leading up to the final victory in Tennessee. Following her presentation, past TBA President Bill Haltom interviewed Weiss. Haltom also has penned a book about the ratification fight. In “Why Can’t Mother Vote?,” he tells the story of Tennessee State Rep. Joseph Hanover and the moving speech he gave on the House floor that may very well have changed the outcome of the vote.

Following the Weiss program, TBA held a virtual “Yellow Rose” Lawyers Luncheon, where for the first time in TBA history, the president's gavel passed from one woman — current President Sarah Sheppeard — to another — incoming President Michelle Greenway Sellers — with yet two other women — Sherie Edwards and Tasha Blakney— in line to take leadership of the TBA in 2021 and 2022, respectively. This is an exciting time for women in our state and our profession!

• Watch Elaine Weiss' presentation - NOW AVAILABLE FOR 1 HOUR OF CLE CREDIT!
Watch the Q&A with Bill Haltom (no CLE credit available)
Watch Michelle Sellers' Speech (no CLE credit available)

We have compiled a number resources for those who would like to learn more about the suffragist movement and Tennessee’s role in the amendment’s ratification. Celebrate with us!



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Tennessee Statesman Harry T. Burn: Woman Suffrage, Free Elections and a Life of Service, by Tyler Boyd. Purchase on Amazon

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Kenneth Burns. Purchase on Amazon.

The Perfect 36: Tennessee Delivers Woman Suffrage, by Carol Lynn Yellin and Janann Sherman, edited by Ilene J. Cornwell.

Order online or purchase at the Hermitage Hotel gift shop, the Parthenon gift shop or Alan LeQuire's studio in Nashville. Also, an audiobook and an e-book are available.


“A Short History of the Right to Vote in Tennessee’s Constitutions and Court, Part 1: 1796-1869,” by Cody Brandon, Tennessee Bar Journal, June 2020. Read the article online or download a pdf.

“A Short History of the Right to Vote in Tennessee’s Constitutions and Court, Part 2: 1870-Present" by Cody Brandon Tennessee Bar Journal, July/August 2020. Read the article online or download a pdf.

"The Unfinished Business of Democracy: How an Immigrant Helped Give Women the Right to Vote," a book review of Why Can't Mother Vote by Suzanne Landers, Tennessee Bar Journal, July/August 2020. Read the review online or download a pdf.

“Ida B. Wells: Fearless Journalist from Memphis Who Changed the World,” by David L. Hudson Jr., Tennessee Bar Journal, August 2018. Read the article online or download a pdf.

“Ida B. Wells at the Tennessee Supreme Court,” by Russell Fowler, Tennessee Bar Journal, November 2015. Read the article online or download a pdf.

"Votes for Women: Tennessee Lawyers vs. the Suffragists," by Wanda Sobieski, Tennessee Bar Journal, August 2015. Read the article online or download a pdf.

"Tennessee's Vote for Women Decided the Nation: The Final Battle," by Paula F. Casey, Tennessee Bar Journal, September/October 1995. Download a pdf of the article

Speech of TBA President Col. E. Watkins in Support of Suffrage, Minutes of the 1918 TBA Annual Convention. Download a pdf of the speech.


Countdown in Tennessee” by Carol Lynn Yellin, American Heritage, December 1978.

“'Debunking the Errors' About Harry T. Burn,” by Robert Houk, Johnson City Press,  Jun 4, 2019.

Hermitage Hotel, Nashville
Exhibit of the suffragist movement in Tennessee and the role the hotel played in ratification of the 19th Amendment

How Tennessee Became the Final Battleground in the Fight for Suffrage” by Anna Diamond, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2018.

"How One Chattanoogan Helped Women Get the Right to Vote," Kate Harrison Belz, Chattanooga Memory Project.

"How Three Men, the 'Suffragents,' Were Pivotal to Enacting Women's Suffrage," Bill Haltom & Tyler Boyd, The Tennessean, Aug. 11, 2020.

Joe Hanover’s Mother Couldn’t Vote – Until He Became a Tenn. Legislator,” by Michael Nelson, The Daily Memphian, Jan. 7, 2020.

"Meet Some of the Tennessee Suffragists Who Helped Change History," Knoxville News Sentinel, Aug. 14, 2020.

Nashville Public Radio - An Interview with a Suffragette

Nashville Public Television - By One Vote: Woman Suffrage in the South

Tennessee Library & Archives

• Women's Suffrage in Tennessee Collections
• Tennessee Library and Archives Workshop: Women's Suffrage Movement, Aug. 20, 2016 (1 hour program)

Tennessee State Museum

• Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote - Temporary exhibit at the museum NOW OPEN!
• Ratified! Statewide: Every County Has a Suffrage Story
   Explore stories about women’s political activities throughout the state through an interactive map
• Lesson Plans for Grades 5 and 9-12

"Tennessee Suffragists Changed History ‘Without Firing a Shot’" Tyler Whetstone, Knoxville News Sentinel, Aug. 18, 2020.

Tennessee Suffragist Monuments - There will be three monuments in Tennessee honoring the suffragists: in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville. All of them are, or will be, designed by artist Alan LeQuire.

Tennessee Woman Suffrage Heritage Trail

The Mother Who Saved Suffrage: Passing the 19th Amendment,” by Jennie Cohen, May 8, 2020, History.com.

The Tennessean: Photo Gallery of Images

Women Suffrage Overlooked Racial Barriers,” The Commercial Appeal

Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment: The ‘Perfect 36’,” speech by Carole Stanford Bucy, Middle Tennessee State University, Honors College Lecture Series, Nov 5, 2019.


“A Woman of Many Firsts: Lutie Lytle,” by Russell Fowler, Tennessee Bar Journal, October 2018. Read the article online or download a pdf.

"50 Years of Pioneers: Early Women in Tennessee Law" and "Balance and Flexibility are Key: Numbers Don't Add Up to Equal Opportunities for Many Women, Report Finds,” by Suzanne Craig Robertson, Tennessee Bar Journal, July 2001. Download a pdf of the articles

"Celebration of Women Pioneers to be Held in June: Not for Ourselves Alone," by Katie Edge, Tennessee Bar Journal, April 2001. Download a pdf of the article

"Pioneers in the Legal Profession: Some of the First African-American and Women Lawyers in Tennessee," by Dwight Aarons, Tennessee Bar Journal, November 1999. Download a pdf of the article

"118 Men Before Her: Meet the TBA's First Woman President Pamela L. Reeves,” Tennessee Bar Journal, July/August 1998. Download a pdf of the article

"The Trailblazers," by Suzanne Craig Robertson, Tennessee Bar Journal, September/October 1990. Download a pdf of the article

"Woman Rejected by Court 'On General Principles,'" by John B. West & Co., Tennessee Bar Journal, September/October 1990. Originally published in The Syllabi, Oct. 21, 1876. Download a pdf of the article

Speech of Lizzie Crozier French, First Female Lawyer to Address the Tennessee Bar Association, Minutes of the 1912 TBA Annual Convention. Download a pdf of the speech.


African American Women Leaders in the Suffrage Movement, Suffragist Memorial.org.

"American Experience: Black Suffragists," Season 32, Episode 9, Public Broadcasting System.

"American Experience: The Vote," Public Broadcasting System.

• Part 1, Season 32, Episode 9
• Part 2, Season 32, Episode 10

Black Women and the Suffrage Movement,” speech by Constitutional Law Professor Gloria Browne-Marshall, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Presented at the “Enfranchising Equality: 150 Years of the 15th Amendment” symposium hosted by the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Available on C-Span.org.

Frederick Douglass on Woman Suffrage & His Role at the Seneca Falls Convention, speech before the International Council of Women, April 1888. Available from Blackpast.org.

History.com - Women's Suffrage and Timeline of the Fight for All Women's Right to Vote

National Endowment for the Humanities - How Black Suffragists Fought for the Right to Vote and a Modicum of Respect

National Public Television - Suffrage 100

National Women’s History Museum - History of the Suffrage Movement and Woman Suffrage Timeline

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony,” a film by Ken Burns.

"The Complex History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement," New York Times, Aug. 15, 2019.

Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission

Women’s Suffrage in the Progressive Era (1900-1929), The Library of Congress. Other resources for teachers.


Jeanette Tillotson Acklen holding the banner she marched behind during the Tennessee campaign for women's suffrage. Her husband, Joseph H. Acklen, was a U.S. Representative and strong proponent of suffrage. Image courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives   Born in Mississippi to former slaves, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an important advocate for African Americans’ and women’s rights. After being forced to move to a segregated railcar, she started contributing articles to black-owned newspapers, and in 1889, became part owner and editor of a Memphis paper. She later moved to Chicago, where she formed a suffrage organization, protested efforts to segregate African American women and fought against lynching. Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution   Tennessee Gov. R.H. Roberts signs the Tennessee Certificate of Ratification following passage by the state legislature. Image courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives