Woman Suffrage Timeline

U.S. – Tennessee Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920)



Abolitionists Lucretia Mott (b. 1793) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (b. 1815)  travel to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, but are barred from attending. This inspires them to hold a women’s rights convention in the U.S.


First Women’s Rights Convention held at Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton presents “The Declaration of Sentiments,” based on the Declaration of Independence, setting the agenda of women’s activism.


The new state of California extends property rights to women in its constitution.


First National Women’s Rights Convention held at Worcester, Massachusetts. Attended by Frederick Douglass, Paulina Wright Davis, Abby Kelley Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton meets Susan B. Anthony (b. 1820) in Seneca Falls.

Worcester, Massachusetts is the site of the second National Women’s Rights Convention. Participants included Horace Mann, New York Tribune columnist Elizabeth Oaks Smith, and Reverend Harry Ward Beecher, one of the nation’s most popular preachers.

At Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth delivers her speech, “Ain’t I a woman?” on May 29.


Clara Howard Nichols addresses the issue of women’s property rights to the Vermont Senate.


The Whole World’s Temperance Convention in New York City does not allow women delegates Antoinette Brown and Susan B. Anthony to speak publicly.


Carrie Lane, later Carrie Chapman Catt, born on January 9.



During the Civil War, women participate in the war effort. They hope actions during war will result in full citizenship rights for women.


In December 18, the Thirteenth Amendment passes, abolishing slavery


In December 18, the Thirteenth Amendment passes, abolishing slavery


Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, dedicated to suffrage for all regardless of gender or race.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Parker Pillsbury publish the first edition of The Revolution, its motto “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less!”

Josephine Pearson, future anti-suffrage leader, born in Gallatin on June 30.

The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified on July 8, stating “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Additionally, it ascribes the right to vote to “the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States,” the first time in the Constitution that gender is assigned to the right to vote.

In Vineland, New Jersey, 172 women cast ballots in a separate box during the presidential election.

Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas introduces a federal woman’s suffrage amendment in the U.S. Congress in December; it does not pass.


The American Equal Rights Association founders due to disagreements over the Fourteenth Amendment and whether to support the proposed Fifteenth Amendment, which would enfranchise Black American males while avoiding woman suffrage.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in New York to work on the vote through a Constitutional amendment and to establish other woman’s rights issues.

Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe and other more conservative activists form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in Boston to achieve woman suffrage through amending individual state constitutions.

Wyoming territorial legislature passes the Wyoming Suffrage Act of 1869, giving women the right to vote.


The Fifteenth Amendment gives black men the right to vote. NWSA refuses to work for its ratification and instead the members advocate for a Sixteenth Amendment that would dictate universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass breaks with Stanton and Anthony over the position of NWSA.

Utah Territory gives women the right to vote.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull announces run for U.S. President.


Victoria Claflin Woodhull addresses the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, arguing for women’s right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The first known women’s anti-suffrage organization occurs when nineteen women “married to prominent men” publish a petition to the U.S. Congress opposing votes for women in the editorial pages of the popular Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine.


Victoria Claflin Woodhull nominated for president by Equal Rights Party, with Frederick Douglass the vice-presidential running mate.

Susan B. Anthony casts her ballot for U.S. Grant in the presidential election, is arrested, and brought to trial in Rochester, New York. Fifteen other women are arrested for illegally voting. Sojourner Truth asks for a ballot in Battle Creek, Michigan, and is turned away.

Abigail Scott Duniway convinces Oregon legislature to pass laws giving married women rights such as starting and operating her own business, controlling the money she earns, and the right to protect her property if left by her husband.


The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded in Cleveland, Ohio, with by Annie Wittenmyer as first president.  Frances Willard becomes president in 1876 and the WCTU becomes part of the fight for woman suffrage. The liquor industry starts to oppose woman suffrage, fearing women will use their vote to prohibit the sale of liquor.


Elizabeth Sharp Cromwell (Mrs. Napoleon Cromwell ) addresses the Tennessee Democratic Convention in Nashville, asking the convention to endorse woman suffrage.

Anne Dallas (later Dudley) born on November 13.


Sen. Aaron A. Sargent of California introduces the Woman Suffrage “Susan B. Anthony” Amendment; would have been the Sixteenth Amendment to Constitution. When passed as the 19th Amendment passes forty-one years later, it is worded exactly the same as the 1878 Amendment.



Lucretia Mott passes away on November 11.


Alice Paul born on January 11.


U.S. Senate takes first vote on woman suffrage amendment; the bill is defeated.


Susan B. Anthony founds the National Council of Women of the United States. It was composed of national organizations and affiliated associations all pledged to work for issues concerning women, among them, the right to vote.


Lide Smith Meriwether elected first president of Equal Suffrage Association formed in Memphis, Tennessee, first association in the state. (Meriwether is also state president of the WCTU.)


NWSA and AWSA merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), with Susan B. Anthony as president. Anthony meets Carrie Lane Chapman Catt (b. 1859.) NAWSA focuses efforts on securing suffrage at the state level.

The State of Wyoming is admitted to the Union with a  constitution granting woman suffrage. The American Federation of Labor declares support for woman suffrage.

The South Dakota campaign for woman suffrage loses.


Olympia Brown founds the Federal Woman’s Suffrage Association in Chicago to campaign for a federal amendment for suffrage.


Woman Suffrage Association formed in Maryville, Tennessee, second in state.

Colorado adopts woman suffrage.


Woman Suffrage Association formed in Nashville, Tennessee.

600,000 signatures are presented to the New York State Constitutional Convention in a failed effort to bring a woman suffrage amendment to the voters.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman’s Bible. Many conservative suffragists considered this too radical and potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign.


Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (both from Tennessee), and Frances E.W. Harper among others found the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, with the motto “Lifting as we climb”, to demonstrate to “an ignorant and suspicious world that our aims and interests are identical with those of all good aspiring women.”

The State of Utah joins the Union with full suffrage for women.

Idaho adopts woman suffrage.


Tennessee has ten Woman Suffrage Associations, most organized by Lide Meriwether. Among them are Memphis, Maryville, Nashville, Jonesboro, and Tullahoma.

Tennessee Equal Rights Association formed at first statewide suffrage gathering held in Nashville, May 1897. Lide Meriwether elected president.


Maryville Suffrage Association hosts public Susan B. Anthony birthday celebration on February 15.



Carrie Chapman Catt succeeds Susan B. Anthony as president of NAWSA.

Second Tennessee state suffrage convention held in Memphis in April, with Carrie Chapman Catt chief speaker. Elise M. Seldon of Memphis elected state president.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton passes away on October 26.


Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O’Reilly, and others form the Women’s Trade Union League of New York, an organization dedicated unionization for working women and to woman suffrage.

Regional equal suffrage convention held in Memphis in December. The Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association is organized.


Alice Paul joins British woman suffrage activists while a student in London.


Alice Paul returns to U.S., bringing more radical woman suffrage actions as a participant in NAWSA.

The State of Washington adopts woman suffrage.

Knoxville Equal Suffrage Society organized in January, with Lizzie Crozier French president.


Josephine Jewel Dodge forms the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) in New York City.

California suffrage campaign succeeds by a small margin.

Nashville Equal Suffrage League organized in September, with Anne Dallas Dudley president.

Equal Suffrage Leagues organized at Morristown by sisters Hannah J. and Anna Price and at Chattanooga – the Chattanooga Suffrage Society Club — by Elizabeth Brown Pentacost and Eleanor Coonrod.

More than 75 leagues form in Tennessee by 1914. [1]


Woman Suffrage is supported for the first time at the national level by a major political party — Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party.

20,000 suffrage supporters participate in New York City suffrage parade.

Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona adopt woman suffrage.

Women’s Political Union holds May 4, 1912, parade in New York City, first suffrage parade in the U.S. Organized by Harriet Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Nashville Suffrage League hosts English suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst.

The Tennessee Equal Suffrage League presents petition to Gov. Ben Hooper asking that women be given the right to vote.

Jackson (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized on December 20; Mary Ellis Butler president in 1917.


Murfreesboro Equal Suffrage League organized, with Harriett Foard Wendell president.

NAWSA suffragists organize a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage to campaign for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage.


Nevada and Montana adopt woman suffrage.

The National Federation of Women’s Clubs, with 2 million members, formally endorses woman suffrage.

Tennessee suffrage leagues begin to hold May Day demonstrations/parades to publicize cause. Hold May Day events until 1917, when they cease due to U.S. entry into World War I.

National American Woman Suffrage Association meets in Nashville in November, with Jane Addams as keynote speaker. A men’s league, women’s business league, and Vanderbilt Chapter of National College Equal Suffrage League form in Nashville after meeting.



Johnson City (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized in January, with Margaret Hayes Powell, chairman.

Tullahoma (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized on May 15.

Dresden (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized in June, with Mamie Tansil president.

Fayetteville (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized on September 10.

Somerville (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized on October 15, with Sarah Walker Hobson president.

Bolivar (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized in November.

Columbia (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized, with Caroline Williams president.

Tennessee General Assembly adopts joint resolution for state constitutional amendment conferring suffrage on women. Amendment would need to pass in 1917 by 2/3s majority and be submitted to voters for their approval.

Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field from the Congressional Union gather over 500,000 signatures from across the U.S. to present to President Woodrow Wilson.

40,000 march in a New York City suffrage parade. Many women dress in white and carry banners with the names of the states they represent.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts continue to reject woman suffrage.


Mountain City (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized in February, with Rosa Swift Fuller (Mrs. Selmer Fuller) president.

East Nashville Equal Suffrage League organized in February, with Bettie Mizell Donelson president.

Sumner County (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized in March, with Prudence Simpson Dresser president.

Humboldt (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized on March 2, with Mary Lemire Dodson president.

Tennessee chapter of Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage forms in Knoxville.

Chapter of National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage forms in Nashville; Virginia Park Vertrees first president, soon succeeded by Josephine A. Pearson

Pres. Woodrow Wilson states that the Democratic Party platform will support suffrage.

Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.


Tennessee General Assembly ignores 1915 joint resolution for a state woman suffrage amendment. Instead, a bill is introduced to give women the right to vote in municipal elections and for presidential electors. Bill passes House 59 to 24 but fails in Senate 21 to 12.

Anne Dallas Dudley becomes vice-president of NAWSA.

Alice Paul forms the National Woman’s Party as an outgrowth of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

NWP picketers stand before White House with banners asking “Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” and “How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?” Alice Paul is punished with solitary confinement in mental ward of prison. Other picketers are arrested sentenced up to 6 months. In November, the government  releases NWP prisoners in response to their hunger strike and to public outcry.

State of New York women gain suffrage.

State of Arkansas women are allowed to vote in primary elections.

South Nashville (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized in January.

McMinnville (TN) Equal Suffrage League organized on February 19 by Frances Hickerson.

Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American publishes woman suffrage supplement on Sunday, February 25, dedicated to Anne Dallas Dudley. Includes editorial by U.S. Sen. Luke Lea – “Why I Favor Woman Suffrage.”



Sue Shelton White (b. 1887) of Jackson joins National Woman’s Party, becoming chair of Tennessee chapter and a NWP organizer.

Rep. Jeannette Rankin opens debate on a suffrage amendment in the U.S. House, where the amendment passes. The amendment fails to win the required two thirds majority in the U.S. Senate.

Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma adopt woman suffrage.

President Woodrow Wilson states his support for a federal woman suffrage amendment. He addresses the Senate about adopting woman suffrage at the end of World War I.


Tennessee General Assembly passes legislation to give women the right to vote in municipal elections and for presidential electors in early April. (A similar bill had failed in 1917.)

Mary Cordelia Beasley Hudson becomes the first woman to legally vote in Tennessee, in the April 22 municipal election in Camden in Benton County.

The U.S. Senate passes the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 41 years after first introduced, and the ratification process in the states begins. 36 of 48 states will be needed to make the amendment federal law.

Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan become first states to ratify on June 10. These are followed in June by Kansas, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Texas.

In July-August, 19th Amendment ratified by Iowa, Arkansas, and Nebraska. On July 24, Georgia first state to reject the amendment.

In September-December, ratified by Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, California, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Colorado.

On September 22, Alabama rejects the amendment.


In January, 19th Amendment ratified by Kentucky, Rhode Island, Oregon, Indiana, and Wyoming. On January 28, South Carolina rejects the amendment.

In February, ratified by Nevada, New Jersey, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. On February 12, Virginia rejects the amendment and on February 24, Maryland rejects.

In March, ratified by West Virginia and Washington, bringing total of states ratifying to 35. On March 29, Mississippi rejects the amendment.

On June 2, Delaware rejects ratification of the 19th Amendment.

On July 1, Louisiana rejects the amendment. Actions by states total 35 ratifying, 8 rejecting – this leaves only 5 possible states to provide the Perfect 36 – Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Pressure placed on Tennessee Gov. Albert H. Roberts to call special legislative session for ratification – and pressure placed on him not to call a session.

July 16 — Josephine Pearson arrives at Hermitage Hotel to lead the Anti-Suffragists.

July 17 — Carrie Chapman Catt, president of NAWSA, arrives in Nashville and marshals the NAWSA suffragists at the Hermitage Hotel.

July 18 – Sue Shelton White arrives in Nashville to lead NWP suffragists; stays at Tulane Hotel.

July 16-August 26 – intensive lobbying across Tennessee to affect the suffrage ratification vote.

August 9 — special session of Tennessee legislature is convened to consider the 19th Amendment.

August 10 — resolutions to ratified the proposed amendment introduced in Tennessee House and Senate.

August 12 — the Committees on Constitutional Amendments of both houses hold a joint meeting.

August 13 — the Senate committee submits a favorable report on the resolution, stating “We covet for Tennessee the signal honor of being the thirty-sixth and last State necessary to consummate this great reform.” The measure is debated in the Tennessee Senate. The Senate adopts the resolution to ratify by vote of 25-4. Resolution is sent to the House.

August 17 – the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments “heartily recommends” approval.

August 18 – The House debates the resolution. Speaker Seth Walker moved to table the resolution; the motion is defeated 48-48, failing to get a majority. The House then votes on the resolution, adopting it with a 50-46 vote. Tennessee had approved the 19th Amendment. Speaker Seth Walker then changed his no vote to aye and entered motion to reconsider the measure.

August 20 – House members opposed to 19th Amendment take train to Decatur, Alabama, to prevent a quorum should the House reconsider the resolution

August 21 – R. K. Riddick moves to “call from the Journal the motion to reconsider” the resolution. Speaker Walker ruled the motion out of order due to lack of a quorum and an injunction from the Nashville Chancery Court had declared “that the State of Tennessee has constitutionally and legally adopted the proposed Nineteenth Amendment…” A vote was taken and the House refused to sustain Walker’s ruling by 49-8. Riddick’s motion was then voted on and the House decided not to reconsider its vote on ratification by 49-0.

August 24 — The ratification resolution is signed by Gov. Roberts and the certification mailed special delivery to the U.S. Secretary of State.

August 26, 1920

In the early hours, the U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby receives Tennessee’s certification — 36 states legislatures had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. He signed the proclamation into law in the privacy of his home.

More than 17 million American women win full voting rights.

Other states ratifying the amendment after it became part of U.S. Constitution:

  • September 1920, Connecticut
  • February 1921, Vermont
  • March 1923, Delaware
  • March 1941, Maryland
  • February 1952, Virginia
  • September 1953, Alabama
  • May 1969, Florida
  • June 1970, Louisiana
  • August 1973, South Carolina
  • February 1970, Georgia
  • May 1971, North Carolina
  • March 1984. Mississippi

[1] In Tennessee, one or more Equal Suffrage Leagues were formed in the following places by 1914: Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Morristown, Nashville, Jackson, Clarksville, Franklin, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, Bolivar, Brownsville, Centerville, Columbia, Dresden, Fayetteville, Hartsville, Hickerson Station, Johnson City, Madison, Manchester, McKenzie, Somerville, Tullahoma, Union City, Big Sandy, Collierville, Covington, Dixon Springs, Elizabethton, Humboldt, Huntingdon, Mountain City, Pulaski, Shelbyville, Trenton, Waverly, Whiteville, Alamo, Ashland City, Dyersburg, Gainesboro, Henderson, Lebanon, Livingston, McMinnville, Milan, Millington, Monterey, Savannah, Ripley, Selmer, Springfield, Carthage, Cookeville, Hohenwald, Lafayette, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg, Lynchburg, Martin, Smithville, Watertown, Waynesboro, Woodbury, Athens, Bristol, Harriman, Jefferson City, Jonesboro, Lenoir City, Dickson, Paris, Lexington, and Sewanee

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