CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – County Mayor Jim Durrett and Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts want bells to ring out at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 18 in celebration of women’s voting rights.
The mayors have jointly proclaimed Aug. 18 as “Tennessee Women’s Suffrage Centennial Day” in Clarksville and Montgomery County and request that churches and community members join in by ringing their bells to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Tennessee General Assembly’s historic ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Tennessee, as the final state needed for ratification, holds a special place in passing the 19th Amendment, which extended voting rights to women across America. State legislators came through with a two-vote victory margin on Aug. 18, 1920, with the law becoming effective eight days later.
While bell ringing will mark the day of the vote, Clarksville will begin the celebration on Saturday, Aug. 15, with a suffrage march from the County Courthouse to Public Square at 5 p.m., followed by dedication of the “Tennessee Triumph” statue and monument at 6 p.m.
The public is invited to attend and encouraged to wear yellow, purple, or white clothing – the colors associated with the suffragist movement. Organizers also remind everyone to wear face coverings and to social distance during the event, in keeping with COVID-19 precautions.
The statue, by Nashville sculptor Roy Butler, will make Clarksville a stop along the state’s Woman Suffrage Heritage Trail, stretching from Chattanooga to Memphis. Ellen Kanervo, executive director of the Clarksville Arts & Heritage Development Council, and local historian Brenda Harper co-chaired the Tennessee Triumph Steering Committee, a group of 20 local women who raised money for the monument and commissioned its creation.
Here is the full proclamation:
Tennessee Women’s Suffrage Centennial Day
WHEREAS, citizens of Clarksville and Montgomery County will soon celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the history of Tennessee and our community holds an important moment in the work to make certain that women could fully participate in America’s great Constitutional Republic; and
WHEREAS, Montgomery County State Representative Guy W. Wines introduced a bill in the Tennessee Legislature in 1869 to grant suffrage to Tennessee women. His proposal did not gain traction.
WHEREAS, in the late 1800s, African-American women formed the National Association of Colored Women and these women devoted their time to cultural, political or charitable work within the community. They couldn’t vote, but they became a powerful force in Clarksville, and
WHEREAS, a chapter of the Equal Suffrage League was established in Clarksville in 1914, and nearly 100 women and men attended the League’s first meeting at the Madison Street home of Minnie Barksdale, wife of Leaf-Chronicle publisher and editor W.W. Barksdale, and
WHEREAS, thirty-nine local women were mentioned in various newspaper accounts of suffrage activities, many with names such as Crouch, Cunningham, Patch, Peay, Rudolph, Runyon and Winn -- family names still common in our community today, and
WHEREAS, after decades of arguments for and against women’s suffrage, Congress finally passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919. After Congress approved the 19th Amendment, at least 36 states needed to vote in favor of the amendment for it to become law. This process is called ratification, and
WHEREAS, in August 1920 pro-suffrage activists gathered in Tennessee’s House Chamber, their yellow roses signifying the blossoming of a movement that began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and would culminate in Nashville after 35 states had previously ratified the 19th Amendment; and
WHEREAS, Phoebe Burn’s letter to her son, Representative Harry Burn, gave him the confidence to remember the women writing "hurrah and vote for suffrage!" ultimately casting the deciding vote; and
WHEREAS, Mrs. Burn is a part of a storied legacy of Tennessee women, including those in Montgomery County who fought for the right to vote, and
WHEREAS, African American women also played a crucial role in the struggle for suffrage in Tennessee, establishing voter education organizations that helped register other African Americans in their communities. These women recognized that voter turnout was an important aspect of suffrage, and
WHEREAS, without Tennessee’s ratification, it is unlikely that women would have been able to vote in the November elections of 1920, and the worthy cause of women’s suffrage could possibly have been delayed for several more years.
NOW, THEREFORE, WE, JIM DURRETT, Mayor of Montgomery County, and JOE PITTS, Mayor of the City of Clarksville, do hereby jointly proclaim August 18, 2020, as “Tennessee Women’s Suffrage Centennial Day” in Clarksville and Montgomery County, and request that churches and interested community members throughout the County ring bells at noon on August 18 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Tennessee State Legislature’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving all American women the right to vote, and that all citizens join us in this worthy observance.
(Images are from the Tennessee State Library and Archives)