One Tennessee Lawmaker’s Vote Gave Suffragists Their Victory: Votes For Women In Every State
They call it “The Perfect 36,” because Tennessee was the 36th and decisive state to approve the amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America giving women the right to vote.
Usually the story focuses on Harry Burns, the legislator whose mother told him to be a good boy and vote yes. The rest is, literally, history.
In 2020, we’ll mark the century of women’s right to participate in their own government. Now, the focus shifts from the men who “bestowed” the privilege, instead rightly crediting the generations of bold women who spent nearly a century fighting for equality.
Their journalism backgrounds gave Jacque Hillman of Jackson and Paula F. Casey of Memphis a sensitivity to how history is made up of current events, which led them to spend decades of (unpaid) work preserving and promoting the story of women’s rights in Tennessee.
They are planning observances and celebrations across the Volunteer State as part of the national “Votes For Women” trail. They’ll highlight the stories of suffrage activists, sites where pivotal events occurred, existing monuments, historical markers, and gravestones. Importantly, there will be particular attention paid to Black suffragists. Although the fight for women’s rights was originally connected to the crusade to abolish slavery, white feminists were willing to abandon their Black compatriots in order to advance their own interests first. (Echoes of this abandonment can be found in the second wave of feminism, willing to back-burner demands for LGBTQIA rights in order to score “easier” victories for straight/cis women first.)
Nobody elected Paula and Jacque to head up this history project; they just decided what needed doing and got started.
We hope their efforts and the opportunity to be a part of the heritage trail might inspire YOU to get YOUR state to identify and preserve their suffrage history in anticipation of the national centennial in 2020.