The state of Tennessee was the necessary 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment in August of 1920. It happened after several days of debate and a tie vote in the Tennessee Legislature when one senator changed his vote at the behest of his Mother. By his one vote, all
women in the U.S. were given the right to the ballot box.
Several women from the Johnson City area were involved in the suffrage movement from the early 1900's through their victory in 1
Definition and Mission: An inclusive, non-partisan alliance honoring the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement focused on the Tennessee and Johnson City stories. Our objectives are to educate our community and celebrate the winning of Women’s franchise.
On November 1, 2020 the Centennial Suffrage Celebration Coalition of Johnson City presented the result of our efforts to Mayor Jenny Brock and the surrounding community of Johnson City. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was live streamed and those who were present followed distancing and mask guidelines.
To kick off the ceremony, Coalition members in suffrage attire marched down Ashe Street toward the mural as they chanted, “We got the vote!” The procession was led by Stacey White Ferren, granddaughter of prominent Johnson City Suffragist, Eliza Shaut White, leader of the historic Johnson City suffrage parade on October 7, 1916. Co-leaders Joy Fulkerson and Linda Good spoke briefly, and mural artist Ellen Elmes, her husband Don, and Rebecca Proffitt of the Reece Museum presented the mural to Mayor Jenny Brock. Mayor Brock invited children who were present to step forward and she explained that they are, in fact, what the mural is all about—the promise of a bright future for our democracy. With the national election underway and final voting to take place on November 3, an additional theme of the ceremony was getting out the vote.
Knoxville Community Television has provided us with recordings of the event in three parts of their Suffrage Celebration series at the following links:
A program of the ceremony and other historic information can be found in the ETSU Reece Museum archives.
The visual design and narrative of the mural was created by Artist, Ellen Elmes in accordance with the Coalition’s selected theme. It tells the story of improved voting rights movements in the United States across time beginning with the Suffrage Movement and continuing into the 21st Century.
The Coalition held a fund raising event named Vibes and Votes at the Willow Tree, a local Coffee House and Music Hall, at the end of February 2020 just prior to the imposition of gathering restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic Shortly afterward, Bravissima! Women Sponsoring the Arts! provided a major portion of the necessary money to pay for the mural. The Johnson City Public Art committee provided the materials, and creation of the mural began.