TPAC joins commemoration of 19th Amendment centennial

Suffragettes hold a jubilee celebrating their victory after the passing of the 19th Amendment.

Suffragettes hold a jubilee celebrating their victory after the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920.

Almost 100 years ago, half of our country’s population was given the right to cast a ballot for the first time.

In honor of this landmark moment in history, TPAC has joined over 40 other Nashville organizations to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote. And for us Tennesseans, this occasion is especially significant, as Tennessee was the 36th and final state to ratify the amendment  with the deciding vote being cast in Nashville.

Participating organizations are planning a series of events to create opportunities for the entire community to participate in dialogue, learning, performances, exhibits and voter education to recognize the work it takes to maintain a thriving democracy. Events will run through 2020, with a key focus on the period surrounding the centennial date of the Tennessee ratification on August 18, 1920, and the subsequent certification by the U.S. Secretary of State on August 26, 1920.

On Election day in 1920, millions of American women were finally allowed to vote. This took nearly 100 years to make this approval. On August 26th, the 19th Amendment to the constitution legally stated that women have the right to vote just like men do.

On Election day in 1920, millions of American women were finally allowed to vote for the first time.

Suffrage celebrations will include everything from ballet and symphony performances to a talk by the great-grand-nephew of Harry T. Burn, the legislator who cast Tennessee’s tie-breaking vote to ratify the 19th Amendment.

“Harry Burn changed his vote at the last minute from against suffrage to for suffrage,” said Gina Patterson, the choreographer of Nashville Ballet’s 72 Steps one of the performances dedicated to honor the 19th Amendment centennial.  “It’s said that he was swayed by a letter from his mother convincing him to change his vote.”

72 steps refers to the 72 steps of the Tennessee state capital that the women climbed to await that final decision.

“We’ve been saying a lot in rehearsals, ‘yes 72 steps, but there’s maybe 72,000 more to go,’” Patterson joked. “We take one step at a time; and small steps of progress is good.”

Depicting a fight that began with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 and spanned over 72 years, the Ballet’s presentation of 72 Steps will transport audiences to the early 1900s with camps in favor and opposition of suffrage frantically battling it out for support in the days leading up to the Tennessee legislature’s historic vote.

“I think it’s really important for young people especially to know that one vote can make a difference and to not take for granted the right to vote because their voice really do matter,” Patterson said.

72 Steps takes an empowering look at the struggle to pass the 19th Amendment.

Nashville Ballet isn’t the only TPAC resident company getting in on the action. Nashville Opera and Nashville Repertory Theatre have also joined this community effort.

The Opera’s Songs of Suffrage will be a semi-staged story propelled by music of the suffrage movement and has been newly arranged for this performance. An all-local cast will perform songs written both in support of and against the movement, portraying women’s struggle for equality.

The Rep’s A Celebration of Suffrage will be an evening of original works that pay homage to the historic passage of the 19th Amendment. This one-night-only event celebrates the trailblazing women who would change the landscape of America featuring song, dance and spoken word creations by both local and national theatrical artists.

It all went down in Nashville

The story goes like this.

By the summer of 1920, 35 of the 36 states necessary had ratified the amendment. Eight states had rejected the amendment, and five had not voted. Suffragists saw Tennessee as their last, best hope for ratification before the 1920 presidential election, making Nashville a hotbed of intense pro and anti-suffrage activity. Governor Albert H. Roberts called a special session of the General Assembly on August 9 to consider the issue.

TPAC has joined over 40 other Nashville organizations to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote.

TPAC has joined over 40 other Nashville organizations to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

After the resolution passed easily in the Tennessee State Senate, both sides lobbied furiously to secure votes in the state House of Representatives where the vote was extremely close. When young Harry T. Burn of Niota changed his vote to support ratification, he broke a tie in the House of Representatives and made history. The Tennessee General Assembly voted to approve the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution on August 18, 1920.

By the summer of 1920, 35 of the 36 states necessary had ratified the amendment. Eight states had rejected the amendment, and five had not voted. Suffragists saw Tennessee as their last, best hope for ratification before the 1920 presidential election, making Nashville a hotbed of intense pro and anti-suffrage activity. Governor Albert H. Roberts called a special session of the General Assembly on August 9 to consider the issue.

After the resolution passed easily in the Tennessee State Senate, both sides lobbied furiously to secure votes in the state House of Representatives where the vote was extremely close. When young Harry T. Burn of Niota changed his vote to support ratification, he broke a tie in the House of Representatives and made history. The Tennessee General Assembly voted to approve the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution on August 18, 1920.

Opponents worked feverishly to rescind the ratification vote on constitutional technicalities. Some anti-suffrage legislators even fled the state in an attempt to prevent a quorum in the General Assembly. Their efforts failed, and on August 24, 1920, Governor Roberts certified Tennessee’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. Two days later, U. S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby issued a proclamation that officially declared the ratification of the 19th Amendment and made it part of the United States Constitution.

The centennial hits especially close to home for Dortch, who says it’s all about “having a voice in the world around you.”

“I don’t think people realize how close we were to this change not happening at all,” said Christi Dortch, TPAC’s Executive Vice President of Programming and Sales. “I often hear gasps when people hear how many years it took to get to a point that this issue was even allowed to be consider in government chambers. The work of some immensely courageous women AND men went into making sure women’s voices would be part of the future of our country.”

votesforwomenhistoricmarker

The Nineteenth Amendment battle in Nashville is also known as the War of the Roses.

The centennial hits especially close to home for Dortch, who says it’s all about “having a voice in the world around you.”

“I can personally recall my grandmother 50 years after this vote relating negative impact of women voting and making their own way in life,” Dortch explained. “Yes, a woman speaking against the right to have a voice. Hard to believe, but there were many women who fought to prevent the 19th Amendment from passing.”

Dortch went on to say she doesn’t see this as “wrong” but merely the democratic process in action.

“We should all have the freedom to have a voice,” Dortch said. “Your idea may not always win; but if that idea (voice) is never expressed, we lose the chance to find those things that bring us together.”

TPAC joins a long list of participating organizations encompassing nonprofit, advocacy, education, government, performing arts and other institutions: including Chick History, Frist Art Museum, League of Women Voters, Metropolitan Historical Commission, Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, Nashville Public Library, Nashville Symphony, Nashville Public Television, The Parthenon & Centennial Park Conservancy, Tennessee Historical Society, Tennessee State Museum, Tennessee State Parks and Vanderbilt University. Local businesses involved in the citywide initiative include the Hermitage Hotel and Parnassus Books.

So mark your calendars, here’s what you can expect this year.

19th Amendment Events Include:

On View Through August 2020
HISTORIC WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE EXHIBIT
Explore a display of The Hermitage Hotel’s private collection of historic artifacts dating from the summer of 1920, when Suffragists were headquartered in the hotel. thehermitagehotel.com

August 16-17, 2019
VOTES FOR WOMEN! COMMEMORATING WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE
Join Tennessee State Parks, the State Museum, and the State Library and Archives for two days of activities commemorating the 99th anniversary of the 19th Amendment ratification. The free event on August 16, 10am-4pm at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, includes living history programs, hands-on activities, a walking tour, and more. The Perfect 3.6 Race for Ratification offers a 1-mile course and a 3.6-mile course at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park at 7am on August 17. Register for the race online. tnstateparks.com

August 18, 2019
THE WOMAN’S HOUR: THE GREAT FIGHT TO WIN THE VOTE
The public is invited to the Main Library for a conversation with Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, and Callie Khouri. Taking place on the 99th anniversary of Tennessee’s deciding vote, this event marks the finale to Nashville’s 2019 citywide summer book club and will be held in anticipation of the 2020 opening of Votes for Women, a permanent exhibit at the Main Library dedicated to the legacy of the 19th Amendment. library.nashville.org

August 24, 2019
WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE – 99 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Organizations honoring the women suffragists in Tennessee who secured the right in 1920 for all women to vote will lay wreaths at the foot of Woman Suffrage Monument in Centennial Park at 11 am. tnsuffragemonument.org

October 2 & 8
COMPOSING A MOVEMENT: WOMEN IN CLASSICAL MUSIC
The Nashville Symphony’s Young People’s Concerts series for schoolchildren celebrates the vital but often forgotten histories of female composers in classical music, with works by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Amy Beach, Lili Boulanger, and Florence Price. Students will learn about the legacy these women created, and path they forged for composers and musicians today. Registration required. nashvillesymphony.org/ypc

October 9, 2019
TENNESSEE STATESMAN HARRY T. BURN: WOMAN SUFFRAGE, FREE ELECTIONS AND A LIFE OF SERVICE
Tyler Boyd, author and great-grand-nephew of Harry T. Burn who cast the tie-breaking vote to ratify the 19th Amendment, will lead this lecture. The event is presented by the Tennessee Historical Society and takes place at 5:30pm at Fort Negley Visitors Center. tnwoman100.com

October 20, 2019
TEA WITH HARRY T. BURN
The League of Women Voters of Nashville hosts an afternoon “suffrage tea” featuring Tyler Boyd, author and great grand-nephew of Harry T. Burn, who will give a book talk about his illustrious relative who cast the final vote that passed the 19th Amendment. lwvnashville.org

November 21, 2019
BY ONE VOTE: WOMAN SUFFRAGE IN THE SOUTH
NPT’s original documentary includes interviews with dozens of experts, including nationally recognized Southern suffrage expert Marjorie Spruill and Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour. wnpt.org

February 17-20, 2020
72 STEPS
Nashville Ballet is excited to partner with TPAC’s HOT Season for Young People to present 72 Steps for school audiences. 72 Steps takes an empowering and celebratory look at the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the vital role Tennessee played in it. tpac.org

February 2020
JOURNEY
Intersection will explore the connections between the 19th Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement through the music and story of Florence Price and excerpts from Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom. This events will kick off Intersection’s 2020 initiative LISTEN, a year-long project celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. intersectionmusic.org

March 2020-March 2021
WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE COMMEMORATION AT THE PARTHENON
The Parthenon and Centennial Park were the destination for the years-long struggle and debate for a woman’s right to vote. The Parthenon will celebrate this history-changing accomplishment with an exhibit spotlighting the creators of the Woman’s Building at the 1897 Centennial Exposition. nashville.gov

March 18, 2020
WIKIPEDIA EDIT-A-THON: WOMEN OF PEABODY COLLEGE
Learn how to edit Wikipedia and improve the representation of women on one of the internet’s most popular sites for gathering information. All are welcome; no editing experience necessary. This event will focus on editing Wikipedia pages about the women of Peabody College. This event will be held at Peabody Learning Lab 304 at Vanderbilt University. library.vanderbilt.edu

March 25, 2020
WIKIPEDIA EDIT-A-THON: ART + FEMINISM
Join Rebecca Vandiver, Vanderbilt University assistant professor of history of African American art, at the Fine Arts Gallery at Vanderbilt University, for an editing event to improve the quality of Wikipedia pages that focus on women involved with the arts, including artists, curators, critics, conservators, collectors, art historians and more. library.vanderbilt.edu

April 2020
MUSICA NUEVE
Intersection presents a program in collaboration with the Global Education Center featuring the music of Cuban composers Tania León and Ileana Perez Velazquez. Other works on the program will include the world premiere of a new guitar concerto by Leo Brouwer. Dates and locations to be announced. intersectionmusic.org

May 23-October 4, 2020
WE COUNT: FIRST-TIME VOTERS
We Count: First Time Voters, at Frist Art Museum, honors the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote by highlighting the history of voting in the United States and the first voting experiences of a diverse group of Nashvillians. Individuals will share their stories with artists, who will create visual representations of their voting experiences. The five artists include Beizar Aradini, Megan Kelley, Jerry Bedor Phillips, Thaxton Waters and Donna Woodley. fristartmuseum.org

June 2020
A CELEBRATION OF SUFFRAGE
Nashville Repertory is proud to present an evening of original works commemorating the historic passage of the 19th Amendment. Featuring song, dance and spoken word creations by both local and national theatrical artists, this one-night-only special event is a celebration of the trailblazing women who would change the landscape of our country. nashvillerep.org

June-August 2020
SUMMER 2020 FEMALE-ARTIST MUSIC SERIES
In celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage, Nashville women musicians will perform on the first Friday of June through August. Appreciate Nashville’s treasured female talent in the historic Grand Lobby of The Hermitage Hotel. thehermitagehotel.com

August 6, 2020
YELLOW ROSE GALA
Enjoy a spectacular evening in the setting of the Suffragists’ headquarters, The Hermitage Hotel. This ticketed, multi-course dinner will feature notable women chefs brought in from across the country to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage and the passage of the 19th Amendment. thehermitagehotel.com

August 13-20, 2020
PROHIBITION-ERA & SUFFRAGIST THEMED POP-UP BAR
In the summer of 1920 from inside the Oak Bar beneath The Hermitage Hotel, Suffragists lobbied the men of Capitol Hill for the right to vote. Travel back in time to the final battleground of women’s suffrage and honor this unique moment in history for an immersive, pop-up bar experience inside the storied Oak Bar. capitolgrillenashville.com

August 2020
SONGS OF SUFFRAGE
Nashville Opera presents a semi-staged story propelled by music of the suffrage movement, newly arranged for Nashville Opera. An all-local cast will perform songs written both in support of and against the movement, portraying women’s struggle for equality. nashvilleopera.org

August 2020
CONTINUED WORK
Intersection wraps up its 2020 initiative LISTEN with a world premiere performance in partnership with dance company New Dialect. This work will explore the lessons we can learn from the passage of the 19th Amendment. Dates and locations to be announced. intersectionmusic.org

September 10-12, 2020
WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION FEATURING THE NASHVILLE SYMPHONY Dedicated to the women and men who worked in support of ratification, this concert features the world premiere of a work co-commissioned by the Nashville Symphony from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe and will also celebrate the legacy of American composer Florence Price with a performance of her Piano Concerto in One Movement. nashvillesymphony.org

Organizations and businesses interested in participating in the 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration are encouraged to contact 19thAmendmentCentennial@gmail.com. Visit https://www.visitmusiccity.com/19thamendment for a full listing of events, education resources and participating partner organizations.

Connect with Michael Aldrich on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @michaelwaldrich.