Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Groups seek to lift Tennessee suffrage profile

Groups seek to lift Tennessee suffrage profile

Proposed monument would go near Capitol

The Tennessean
3:54 PM, Aug. 25, 2011 
Karen Y. Johnson
Last year on Aug. 26, when the Tennessee Women's Political Caucus sponsored a Women’s Equality Day event to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we were reminded that the 100th anniversary is only 10 years away.
In 1995, when the nation was celebrating the 75th anniversary, Tennesseans formed The Tennessee Commemorative Woman’s Suffrage Commission led by then first lady and honorary chairwoman Martha Sundquist. The co-chairs were Paula Casey of Memphis and state Sen. Thelma Harper of Nashville.
Historian Carole Bucy served as the executive director and historians Janann Sherman and Carol Lynn Yellin served on the board of directors. They gathered historical documents and three plays were written: The Perfect 36, The Yellow Rose Brigade and Yellow Rose of Suffrage about the events that took place in Tennessee leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The plays were performed in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. Many other events and parades were held across the state that year. The Tennessee suffragists’ work is documented in a book entitled The Perfect 36.
Many artifacts were collected for the 75th anniversary celebration and donated to the Tennessee Museum; however, the curator has not chosen to keep them on display. In fact, no memorials to the events of 1920 appear in our capital city, except a small plaque behind the Hermitage Hotel and a large bas-relief work by local sculptor Alan LeQuire, which hangs in the State Capitol, on the second floor outside the stairway to the Senate Gallery.
As part of the plans made by Woman Suffrage 75 Inc., women from all three Tennessee Grand Divisions agreed to go back to their respective communities and raise the money to erect a suffrage monument in the main cities of Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. Only the Knoxville women succeeded.
They raised the money and commissioned LeQuire to erect a bronze statue of the leading Tennessee suffragists. The magnificent statue was dedicated on Aug. 26, 2006, and proudly stands in Krutch Park, adjoining the Market Square Mall in downtown Knoxville.
Sadly, no monument has been erected in our capital city, Nashville. The board of the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus voted to spearhead the effort to raise the money and commission an artist to erect a women’s-suffrage monument in Nashville. A separate board has been named for the nonprofit corporation, including women from across Tennessee. We plan to partner with other organizations and individuals to help make the dream a reality. We envision the monument will be placed somewhere near the State Capitol and dedicated on the 100th anniversary of that famous day, Aug. 18, 2020, when the Tennessee legislature ratified the amendment.
With 10 years to raise the money and create an art competition to select a sculptor, we know that what Susan B. Anthony declared is true: “Failure is impossible.”
Karen Y. Johnson is president of the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus and Metro Councilwoman-elect for District 29.

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