Join us on August 24, 2019, as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day (August 26) early by laying wreaths at the monument. Program begins at 11 a.m. at Centennial Park. This photo is from the 2018 celebration.
Learn more about the suffragists featured on this monument:
Abby Crawford Milton (1881 – 1991)
Anne Dallas Dudley (1876 – 1955)
One of Tennessee’s most influential suffragists, Dudley founded the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, served as president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage League in 1915, and as vice president of NAWSA in 1917. She was an indispensable campaigner for the final ratification effort in 1920.
Her beauty, charm, and eloquence made her the living refutation of the derogatory “she-male” label often attributed to suffragists by opponents. Her political acumen was widely recognized. She once demolished an anti-suffragist’s argument that “because only men bear arms, only men should vote.” Dudley pithily replied, “Yes, but women bear armies.”
Dudley and several other women met in the Tulane Hotel’s back parlor in September 1911 to found the Nashville Equal Suffrage League. The organization was dedicated to building local support while “quietly and earnestly avoiding militant methods.” The elegant Dudley served as the organization’s first president. During her presidency, the League organized giant “May Day” suffrage parades usually led by Dudley and her children.
Nashville was among several major cities across the country where parades were scheduled for the first Saturday in May. Dudley, daughter of Trevanion Dallas, a wealthy cotton mill owner, and great niece of George Dallas, who was James K. Polk’s vice president, was an organizer of the Nashville parade. It was the first suffrage parade in the South.
Dudley also helped bring the NAWSA convention to Nashville in November 1914, which was one of the largest conventions ever held there.
Dudley was elected to head the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association in 1915 after serving in the local league for four years. In her three-year tenure as head of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, she increased the number of leagues statewide from nine to sixty. Her political savvy was becoming known. She helped introduce a suffrage amendment to the state constitution and gained suffrage planks in the platforms of both parties.
When the state constitutional amendment failed, she pushed an alternative measure which would allow women to vote in presidential and municipal elections. This was a tactic that had worked in other states. The House passed the resolution on January 19, 1917. Twelve days later, the state Senate defeated it. She proclaimed, “We are not crybabies,” and reassembled her workers. Two years later in 1919, the resolution passed. She telegraphed this message to national headquarters: “We are voters in Tennessee. (signed) Anne Dallas Dudley”
Dudley contributed significantly on the national suffrage stage in 1917 to advancing legislation when she became Third Vice President of the NAWSA. Along with Catherine Talty Kenny of Nashville and Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, she led the campaign to approve ratification when the time came for Tennessee’s pivotal vote in 1920.
At her most eloquent, Dudley transcended all questions of race and class. She declared: “We have a vision – a vision of a time when a woman’s home will be the whole wide world, her children all those whose feet are bare, and her sisters all those who need a helping hand: a vision of a new knighthood, of a new chivalry when men will fight not only for women but for the rights of women.”
Her legacy has been recognized in several ways:
- Featured on the Tennessee Woman’s Suffrage Memorial which was unveiled in Knoxville in 2006, along with Lizzie Crozier French of Knoxville and Elizabeth Avery Meriwether of Memphis
- Featured along with ten other prominent Tennesseans in The Pride of Tennessee, the official Tennessee State Bicentennial Portrait which hangs in the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville
- Recognized with a historical marker in Nashville’s Centennial Park dedicated to her
- Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995 in Seneca Falls, New York
- Featured with four other suffragists on the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument which was unveiled on August 26, 2016, in Nashville’s Centennial Park
- The city street was known as Capitol Boulevard beside The Hermitage Hotel and near the state capitol building has been approved by the Metropolitan Nashville Council to be re-named Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard
J. Frankie Pierce (1864 – 1954)
Founder of the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in Nashville; a founder of the Tennessee Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs; and a founder of the Negro
Women’s Reconstruction Service League. She organized protests against lack of restroom facilities for blacks in downtown Nashville and was an outspoken advocate of equal suffrage. At the invitation of Catherine Talty Kenny, Mrs. Pierce was a speaker
on May 18, 1920, for the first meeting of the Tennessee League of Women Voters, held in the House chambers at the Capitol. “What will the negro [sic] woman do with the vote?” she asked. “We are going to make you proud of us and yourselves….We
want a state vocational school and a child welfare department of the state, and more room in state schools .” Building upon the momentum of women’s empowerment after the ratification of the19th Amendment, she intensified her efforts for a state vocational school; the bill creating the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls was
passed by the General Assembly on April 7, 1921. Mrs. Pierce became its first superintendent, serving until 1939.
Sue Shelton White (1887 – 1943)
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859 – 1947)