Lois Jordan, Ph.D.

By Lois Jordan, Ph.D.

With such divisiveness these days, and now there’s that pandemic, here’s something about a friend who held high tea recently.

My friend, Bonnie Edwards, invited us to high tea at the Hermitage Hotel, where suffragists had headquarters in August of 1920 when they persuaded Tennessee legislators to ratify the U.S. Constitution so women could vote.

We could have had high tea anyplace, but hotel historian Tom Vickstrom told us about suffrage.

One of Nashville’s Black women in this movement was Nattie Langston Napier. Her husband was J.C. Napier, namesake for J.C. Napier public housing. The Napiers are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Nattie Napier was instrumental in bringing the National Association of Colored Women to Nashville in 1897.

During demonstrations for suffrage, African-American women had to march in the back of the procession. Two years later, Black women were permitted to vote. 

At high tea: Debbie Watts dressed like a suffragist; and, hotel catering director Suzanne Bradford offered food and drink like that when teas were less of a social affair and more of a political event as suffragists campaigned for the right to vote.

Commemorating the 19th amendment is one thing. We must know our history, but women are still movers and shakers in our own way.

Every woman should remember that our vote is powerful. Statistics show that women vote more than men. If it weren’t for suffragists, we wouldn’t have that power. The way to fight is with your vote and all Americans have the right to a secret ballot.

Bonnie does something every July and this summer it was about suffragists and the ‘War of the Roses.’

As the time grew near for Tennessee legislators to vote on whether Tennessee would be the last state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, those against it wore red roses in their suit coat lapels and ratification advocates wore yellow roses.

That year, freshman state Rep. Harry Burn of McMinn County, was cornered by senior lawmakers who got him to say he’d vote against suffrage, but his mother, Febb Burn, told him to vote with those wearing yellow roses.

Harry broke the tie, and later explained that he knew motherly advice is always safe, and his mother wanted him to vote for ratification.

Maybe women have more than one vote even today.

Dr. Lois Jordan’s Ph.D is in education.