Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learn Facts about the Women's Suffrage Movement in Tennessee Online

On this date in history, Mary Cordelia Beasley Hudson etched her place in history by becoming the first woman to legally vote in Tennessee. Hudson cast her vote - for the winning candidate, she proudly noted - in a Camden mayoral election just five days after a law giving women the right to vote in Tennessee took effect. (The man she helped elect, A.V. Bowls, told a Nashville newspaper he was “puffed up” to have won the first election in which women were allowed to participate.)

That story is just one of many chronicled in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ online exhibit about women’s suffrage. The exhibit titled,“Remember the Ladies!”: Women Struggle for an Equal Voice, can be found online at

Marching Suffragettes, ca. 1915, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers
Women march for the right to vote in this Nashville parade.

Perhaps Tennessee’s best-known and most important contribution to the suffrage movement came when a young man decided to listen to his mother.

Although giving women the right to vote had been debated for decades, the suffrage movement did not gain steam until the late 19th Century. A constitutional amendment was proposed, and by 1920 required only one more state - the 36th - to ratify before it would become law.

Tennessee proved to be that pivotal state. However, not all women favored the right to vote. In Tennessee, there was a powerful anti-suffrage lobby that vigorously opposed ratification. Both anti- and pro- “Suffs” mobilized their forces for the final fight and set up headquarters at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville.

On the day of the final vote, it appeared the anti- faction would win. But Harry Burn, the youngest member of the General Assembly at age 23, cast the deciding vote. Burn had been allied with the anti-suffrage group, but after receiving a letter from his mother with the words, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!” he changed his vote.

This online exhibit is just one example of the types of resources that are available at the State Library and Archives, many of which are available to Tennesseans online, 24 hours a day, free of charge.

"Remember the Ladies!" can be viewed online at

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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