Where Every Family Matters

History of Women’s Suffrage Exhibit Extended at TN State Museum

'Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right Vote' to now run through September 26, 2021.

Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right Vote, the Tennessee State Museum’s exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, originally scheduled to close this spring, will be extended through September 26, 2021.

“The extension will allow visitors who have been unable to visit the museum extra time to explore Tennessee’s historic role in the ratification of the 19th amendment,” said Ashley Howell, Tennessee State Museum executive director. “Our COVID safety measures remain in place during this time, and we’ll continue to follow CDC and local and state health official guidance as we move into the spring and summer months. I hope is that everyone who has wanted to see the show will have had that opportunity by the fall of 2021.”

Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote, spanning two galleries and 8,000 square feet, explores the story of women’s suffrage throughout the entire state of Tennessee in the decades leading up to the pivotal vote – and its impact on the century that followed.

"In August of 1920, the nation’s attention was on Tennessee. The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote throughout the country, had passed at the federal level a year earlier, and was now making its way through state legislatures for ratification. It needed 36 states to approve it, and was stalled at 35. Tennessee was its best hope for ratification. The final vote for ratification at the State Capitol in Nashville on August 18, 1920 was historic not only in its outcome, but for its thrilling 11th-hour circumstances and the great uncertainty surrounding that outcome. There is, of course, much more to the story. Tennessee State Museum not only explores the circumstances in and around Nashville that August, but also delves into the story of women’s suffrage throughout the entire state of Tennessee in the decades leading up to the vote."

Temporary Exhibits | Tennessee State Museum

Together with the stories of those women who represented the movement on the national stage, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony in its earliest days, and Ida B. Wells, Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul later, the exhibition highlights the stories of suffragists throughout Tennessee. Visitors will learn about the activities of the Maryville College Equal Suffrage Club, the Tullahoma Equal Suffrage League, and a suffrage parade in McKenzie that included “a column of young boys and girls afoot, waving balloons and banners…” 

“The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a major step forward in recognizing women as equal participants in American democracy and public life,” said curator Dr. Miranda Fraley-Rhodes at the launch of the exhibition. “For Tennessee women, this was especially important. They continued to face discriminatory laws that limited their rights to their children and prohibited them from activities like serving on juries. With the power of the vote, women gained a critical tool to demand change from state and local governments. It was a milestone in American and Tennessean women’s ongoing search for equality.”

Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote is told through six major sections that include Women’s Search for Political Rights, Why Women Want the Vote, Tennessee Suffragists, Women Gain the Vote, Changing the Political System. A final section provides an opportunity for visitors to watch a film culled from the Nashville Public Television (NPT) documentary, By One Vote: Woman Suffrage in the South, and reflect on the history of the suffrage movement. The exhibition uses artifacts, documents, archival photos, large-scale graphics, and additional videos from the NPT film to share the stories of the Tennesseans who came to have decisive roles in American women’s struggle to gain voting rights.

Further information about the exhibition and archived videos of virtual events are available at the Museum’s website at TNMuseum.org.


About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 4-year-old Ezra and baby Norah.