Tennessee played a pivotal role in ratifying the amendment giving women the right to vote.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced the 2019-2020 edition of the Tennessee Blue Book will be dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
“Tennessee played a pivotal role in ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so it is appropriate to dedicate our state’s official historical reference, the Tennessee Blue Book, to this important milestone,” Hargett said. “During Women’s History Month, it’s important to remember the Women’s Suffrage Movement across the country, and especially here in Tennessee, which led to this significant moment in our nation’s history.”
Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, the 19th Amendment was not submitted to the states for ratification until 1919 and was ratified by three-fourths of the states a year later. Tennessee ratification on August 18, 1920 was the last state needed to amend the Constitution.
Published by the Secretary of State’s office once every two years, the Tennessee Blue Book serves as a state and government manual for Tennessee. It includes information on Tennessee state history and government, biographies of elected and appointed state officials, elections results, census data and more.
The Blue Book dedication will honor the continuous and unwavering effort by Tennessee suffragists and the significant role Tennessee played in guaranteeing all women the right to vote.
“One hundred years ago, a Tennessee legislator and his influential mother changed the course of history becoming one of the deciding votes in ratification of the 19th Amendment. It is only fitting we recognize Tennessee’s pivotal role in the suffrage movement with a commemorative edition of the definitive guide to Tennessee state government, the Tennessee Blue Book,” Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said. “I am grateful to the Office of the Secretary of State and its Division of Publications for putting together this special edition in honor of this important anniversary.”
“We are proud of Tennessee’s important role in ratifying the 19th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution and the decisive part our state played in the nation’s history,” said Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). “I am pleased to join with Secretary Hargett to celebrate this remarkable development which led to women gaining the right to vote, and I stand with my Republican colleagues as we continue our work addressing the critical needs of all Tennessee.”
The 2019-20 Tennessee Blue Book will be a commemorative edition similar to the 2013-2014 edition dedicated to former University of Tennessee Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt. The next edition will be published and ready for distribution in early 2020.
Black Women and Suffrage Movement
The largest and best-known women’s suffrage group during the last quarter of the 19th century was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, (WCTU) founded in 1874. Their policies encouraged separate Black and White unions, but at least one White woman, Amelia Bloomer, campaigned against racism within the movement, and some Black women did rise to positions of prominence. Frances Harper, for one, was most effective in recruiting Black women to the cause and was eventually appointed to the national office.
Among Black women who were staunch suffragists was Anna Julia Cooper, best known for her statement: “Only the Black woman can say when and where I enter in the quiet undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence or special patronage. Then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.” Cooper was particularly effective in emphasizing to Black women that they required the ballot to counter the belief that “Black men’s” experiences and needs were the same as theirs.
Despite the racial divisions, Black women were collective in their courage in the fight for equality. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist who led an anti-lynching campaign in the late 19th century, organized the Alpha Suffrage Club among Black women in Chicago and brought members with her to participate in the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. The organizers of the march asked that they walk at the end of the parade. She tried to get the White Illinois delegation to support her opposition of this segregation, but found few supporters.
They either would march at the end or not at all. Ida refused to march, but as the parade progressed, Ida emerged from the crowd and joined the White Illinois delegation, marching between two White supporters. She refused to comply with the segregation.
This article originally appeared in the Nashville Pride.