The Road to Suffrage: Knoxville | A Program of the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative

@ East Tennessee History Center
East Tennessee History Center Bilo Nelson Auditorium
Sunday, March 18, 2018 - 9:00am to Monday, March 19, 2018 - 11:45am

Tennessee figured prominently in the quest for woman suffrage when a young man’s vote in the Tennessee Legislature, August 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.

Speakers and Topics

1:00 p.m.: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement in America
Marjorie J. Spruill, Ph.D.

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.

2:00 p.m.: Woman Suffrage in Tennessee: The Continuing Legacy
Carole Bucy, Ph.D.

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 August 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, Bucy 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.

3:00 p.m.: Showdown in Knoxville
Wanda Sobieski

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. 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.

Suffrage memorabilia and objects on view: Those attending will also have an opportunity to view a display of objects connected with the woman suffrage movement. One of the most notable is a letter from Febb Esminger Burn of Niota to her son Harry, in which she urges him to vote “yes” on the 19th Amendment. Changing his previous “nay” to an “aye,” Burn broke the tie in the Tennessee Legislature in what is remembered by history as one of our nation’s most famous and influential votes. The display will be on view Sunday, March 18, only.

About the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative:
The Center for Historic Preservation, MTSU, is the series sponsor. Programs are organized and presented by the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative, with a mission of “Celebrating the Achievement. Continuing the Legacy” of the 19th Amendment. Over the next three years, TWSCC will present programs in each of the state’s three regions: Knoxville in 2018, Memphis in 2019, culminating in Nashville in 2020.

The Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative is composed of representatives of the following groups: Center for Historic Preservation, MTSU, Humanities Tennessee, Tennessee Historical Society, East Tennessee Historical Society and Museum, National Civil Rights Museum, Chick History, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Tennessee State Museum, Tennessee Historical Commission, and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. 

Woman Suffrage Teacher Workshop
Saturday, March 17, 2018, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at the East Tennessee History Center

With Dr. Carole Bucy as guest scholar, this special workshop will explore the history of woman suffrage through historical background, resources, and classroom strategies. Sponsored by Teaching with Primary Sources at MTSU. For workshop registration, please contact Lisa Oakley, or 865-215-8828.

Presenting Sponsor: