There are many things we take for granted that were not available to everyone not that long ago, including an education, healthcare, and the ability to vote.
In August one hundred years ago, Tennessee was the swing state as one of the “Perfect 36” that ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the vote. On August 18, 1920, the vote was a tie and on the shoulders of one young man in the House of Representatives, Harry Burn. Acting on the advice of his mother, he voted to ratify. It shows that one vote does in deed count. Voting this year is not only raising your voice, but also a celebration of women getting the right to vote.
The fight began a hundred years before. Before the Civil War, a group of men and mostly women met at Seneca Falls, New York under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Previous to the work of these women and those before them, women could not own land, inherit from family or even have claim to their own wages. They were basically the property of their fathers, husbands, or brothers. The move for suffrage led to other rights for women, including the right to manage their own livelihoods.
Murfreesboro had its own group of suffragists. The Rutherford Arts Alliance has been working with Nashville playwright Mary Donnet Johnson since last year to honor these women, and others who have made a significant contribution to the community in a play called “Party of Twelve.” Originally planned to be presented in May of 2020, it will now be the final event in a year-long celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment sometime in 2021 due to the pandemic.
It is the culmination of work beginning last year by many different women, and organizations who pulled together beginning in 2019 to research and collect information about these leading ladies.
The year 1914 saw more than seventy-five Equal Suffrage Leagues in the state of Tennessee, which includes the one in Murfreesboro. Members of that group still have descendants in the city, — Wendels, Cannons, Murfrees and Jacksons. Ann Brawley Jackson, the Murfreesboro Suffrage League secretary, assisted state leader Sue Shelton White according to the Leading Ladies of Rutherford County website.
With all that is going on in the world, it is important to make sure to vote. Recently, Tre Hargett, Secretary of State for Tennessee spoke via Zoom to the Rotary Club of Murfreesboro.
One of the main concerns of the state is keeping poll workers and in-person voters safe.
“We want voters to be spread out over multiple days and space,” said Hargett. “We hope citizens will wear masks.”
Because of the pandemic, there is a shortage of poll workers so the government has lowered the age of workers to 16 years of age, and they are allowing government employees to work the poles as long as their direct supervisor is not on the ballot.
“Folks who have worked the polls for many years are not working this year because of COVID-19,” said Hargett. “We are working on getting 3,000 new poll-workers state-wide.”
Go vote this August 6, to honor the women who fought for Suffrage, and because your voice matters. Don’t take your right for granted. Use it!
Polls are open 7am – 7pm on Election Day, August 6th. View a list of polling locations here. All voters must present an ID containing the voter’s name and photograph when voting at the polls. Learn more here.
To learn more about the anniversary, visit TNWoman100.com. The website will offer a live-stream production of the dramatic story that took place on the Tennessee House floor during the vote for the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Tuesday, August 18th from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.