Women's Suffrage at the Hermitage Hotel

The Epicenter of Women’s Suffrage

Tennessee was the final state to vote to ratify the 19th amendment, and the Hermitage Hotel played an important role in that vote.

In March 1920, Washington became the 35th state to pass the 19th amendment, securing women the right to vote. Only one more state was needed to ratify the amendment. Four months later, Tennessee Governor Albert Roberts called special sessions to discuss the ratification of the 19th amendment with state legislators, drawing national attention. Suffragists from across the country led by Carrie Chapman Catt and Tennessee native Anne Dallas Dudely established headquarters in the Hermitage Hotel. There, they held meetings and discussed how they would persuade legislators to join their cause. However, anti-suffragists also established their headquarters to host similar meetings at the hotel.

“The Hermitage Hotel was the site of many fist fights and swarms of red roses in the lobby there every evening,” said Abby Crawford Milton, the president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association. “No woman would dare venture down there. The mezzanine of that hotel had been bought up by the anti’s (anti-suffragists). And they served liquor there to the members, all the members there could get drunk. They took our votes away from them with all the men that they could.”

A key vote for the amendment came from Representative Burn from McMinn County. Burn was very outspoken against the amendment until the day before the vote. He received a letter from his mother telling him to be a “good boy” and vote for ratification. He voted in favor of the movement and the state Senate approved the ratification. Governor Roberts signed the Certificate of Ratification and sent it to Washington, D.C. On August 18, 1920, the Secretary of State proclaimed the 19th amendment ratified. The hotel acknowledges the victory to this day and proudly proclaims its role in women’s suffrage. The hotel hosts anniversary celebrations and has commemorated the event with a plaque outside the hotel.