Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument
Abby Crawford Milton (1881 – 1991)
Anne Dallas Dudley (1876 – 1955)
One of Tennessee’s most influential suffragists, Dudley founded the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, served as president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage League in 1915, and as vice president of NAWSA in 1917. She was an indispensable campaigner for the final ratification effort in 1920.
Her beauty, charm, and eloquence made her the living refutation of the derogatory “she-male” label often attributed to suffragists by opponents. Her political acumen was widely recognized. She once demolished an anti-suffragist’s argument that “because only men bear arms, only men should vote.” Dudley pithily replied, “Yes, but women bear armies.”
Dudley and several other women met in the Tulane Hotel’s back parlor in September 1911 to found the Nashville Equal Suffrage League. The organization was dedicated to building local support while “quietly and earnestly avoiding militant methods.” The elegant Dudley served as the organization’s first president. During her presidency, the League organized giant “May Day” suffrage parades usually led by Dudley and her children.
Nashville was among several major cities across the country where parades were scheduled for the first Saturday in May. Dudley, daughter of Trevanion Dallas, a wealthy cotton mill owner, and great niece of George Dallas, who was James K. Polk’s vice president, was an organizer of the Nashville parade. It was the first suffrage parade in the South.
Dudley also helped bring the NAWSA convention to Nashville in November 1914, which was one of the largest conventions ever held there.
Dudley was elected to head the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association in 1915 after serving in the local league for four years. In her three-year tenure as head of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, she increased the number of leagues statewide from nine to sixty. Her political savvy was becoming known. She helped introduce a suffrage amendment to the state constitution and gained suffrage planks in the platforms of both parties.
When the state constitutional amendment failed, she pushed an alternative measure which would allow women to vote in presidential and municipal elections. This was a tactic that had worked in other states. The House passed the resolution on January 19, 1917. Twelve days later, the state Senate defeated it. She proclaimed, “We are not crybabies,” and reassembled her workers. Two years later in 1919, the resolution passed. She telegraphed this message to national headquarters: “We are voters in Tennessee. (signed) Anne Dallas Dudley”
Dudley contributed significantly on the national suffrage stage in 1917 to advancing legislation when she became Third Vice President of the NAWSA. Along with Catherine Talty Kenny of Nashville and Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, she led the campaign to approve ratification when the time came for Tennessee’s pivotal vote in 1920.
At her most eloquent, Dudley transcended all questions of race and class. She declared: “We have a vision – a vision of a time when a woman’s home will be the whole wide world, her children all those whose feet are bare, and her sisters all those who need a helping hand: a vision of a new knighthood, of a new chivalry when men will fight not only for women but for the rights of women.”
Her legacy has been recognized in several ways:
• Featured on the Tennessee Woman’s Suffrage Memorial which was unveiled in Knoxville in 2006, along with Lizzie Crozier French of Knoxville and Elizabeth Avery Meriwether of Memphis
• Featured along with ten other prominent Tennesseans in The Pride of Tennessee, the official Tennessee State Bicentennial Portrait which hangs in the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville
• Recognized with a historical marker in Nashville’s Centennial Park dedicated to her
• Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995 in Seneca Falls, New York
• Featured with four other suffragists on the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument which was unveiled on August 26, 2016, in Nashville’s Centennial Park
• The city street was known as Capitol Boulevard beside The Hermitage Hotel and near the state capitol building has been approved by the Metropolitan Nashville Council to be re-named Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859 – 1947)
Frankie Pierce (1864 – 1954)
Founder of the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in Nashville; a founder of the Tennessee Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs; and a founder of the Negro Women’s Reconstruction Service League. She organized protests against lack of restroom facilities for blacks in downtown Nashville and was an outspoken advocate of equal suffrage. At the invitation of Catherine Talty Kenny, Mrs. Pierce was a speaker on May 18, 1920, for the first meeting of the Tennessee League of Women Voters, held in the House chambers at the Capitol. “What will the negro [sic] woman do with the vote?” she asked. “We are going to make you proud of us and yourselves….We want a state vocational school and a child welfare department of the state, and more room in state schools .” Building upon the momentum of women’s empowerment after the ratification of the19th Amendment, she intensified her efforts for a state vocational school; the bill creating the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls was passed by the General Assembly on April 7, 1921. Mrs. Pierce became its first superintendent, serving until 1939.
Sue Shelton White (1887-1943)
One of Tennessee’s most effective suffragists, the Henderson native was one of the first women court reporters in the state in 1907. White joined the woman suffrage movement and helped organize the Jackson Equal Suffrage League in 1911. While working to increase support for suffrage in Tennessee, she served as recording secretary for the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association beginning in 1913. She later came to believe that the policies and methods of the more activist National Woman’s Party (NWP) were more effective and changed her allegiance in 1918.
Upon moving to Washington, DC, White became Tennessee chair of the NWP in 1918 and edited the organization’s newspaper, The Suffragist. She achieved additional notoriety for participating in a suffrage demonstration in which the NWP burned President Woodrow Wilson in effigy. Arrested for picketing the White House in 1919, she served five days in the Old Work House, a condemned jail. After her release, White joined the “Prison Special,” a chartered railroad car that traveled around the country bringing the suffrage issue to the people. She was the only known Tennessee woman jailed for her suffrage work.
During the 1920 ratification campaign in Nashville, she headed the NWP campaign and coordinated their work with Carrie Chapman Catt’s NAWSA as both lobbied lawmakers. Known for being politically sagacious, “Miss Sue” coordinated her workers out of the Tulane Hotel. Catt’s group operated from the Hermitage Hotel.
In 1923, after the amendment was passed, White earned her law degree from Washington College of Law in Washington, DC, and worked for Senator Kenneth McKellar (D-TN). She later worked as an attorney for Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to help implement the Social Security Act. In the 1920s-30s, she held other important posts in Washington, DC, with the Democratic National Committee, the Woman’s Bureau, and the Social Security Board. After a long bout with cancer, White died on May 6, 1943.
Beth Stricklin Bates
Title: Managing Attorney, Benefits Unit West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc.
Lives in: Jackson.
Education: B.S. Political Science and Social Studies, Mississippi University for Women; J.D. University of Tennessee.
Among many contributions to West Tennessee: Bates testified before the Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives on November 19, 2009 on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. The subject of the testimony was the need for increased funding for the Social Security Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review. Since then, she has joined with other public service attorneys who advocate for improved service from the agency with then-Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and two Tennessee Disability Determination directors. She writes a monthly column on Social Security issues for The Jackson Sun. She is a Board Certified Social Security Disability specialist and has represented approximately 2000 citizens before the agency during her 33 years as an attorney.
Awards, Community Leadership: Bates was a co-recipient of the B. Riney Green Award for collaborative statewide advocacy by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services in 2011. She is a fellow of the Tennessee Bar Foundation and a master member of the Howell Edmunds Jackson Inns of Court. She has served four terms as president of the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women and is serving her second term as president of BPW/TN. She was chosen Regent of the Jackson-Madison Chapter of NSDAR for 2016-2019. She is passionate about empowering women and has lobbied for pay equity as well as working on the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women’s 2016 Empowerment conference as president. She also hopes to empower her young adult daughter, Virginia.
Did you know? Following a family tradition, Bates likes to enter crafts in the West Tennessee State Fair.
The Sue Shelton White Award – Sue Shelton White 1887-1943
Sue Shelton White was a suffragist, attorney, and general counsel implementing the Social Security Act. She was president of Jackson Area Business and Professional Women, 1929-1931. From 1909 to 1929, she was a member of Jackson-Madison Daughters of the American Revolution.
Sue Shelton White was the only Tennessee suffragist jailed for her efforts to win American women the right to vote. After Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919, White returned to Tennessee and helped make Tennessee the thirty-sixth state to vote for ratification.
From 1920 to 1926, she worked as a clerk and later legal secretary for Tennessee Senator Kenneth McKellar in Washington, D.C. In 1926, she returned to Jackson, as the city’s first female attorney in her own law firm, Anderson and White. She helped write Tennessee’s first married women’s property bill, an old age pension act, and a widow’s pension act.
In her honor, Jackson Area Business and Professional Women created the Sue Shelton White Award, which is presented at the annual Sterling Awards: 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee ceremony held on Equal Pay Day. The 2017 Sue Shelton White Award was presented to Beth Stricklin Bates, and the 2018 Sue Shelton Award to Mary Jo Middlebrooks, both outstanding attorneys in West Tennessee who are community activists working to create or change legislation to improve the lives of women and children in the state of Tennessee.
Sterling Awards 2018 – 20 Most Influential Women of West Tennessee and Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award – Sue Shelton White, 1887-1943 Sue Shelton White Award
The Sterling Awards 2018: 20 Most Influential Women of West Tennessee, Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award and Sue Shelton White Award were created by the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women and The Jackson Sun to honor those women in the West Tennessee area who have achieved a significant level of success.
- Nominee lives or works in West Tennessee outside Shelby County.
- Nominee is a leader in business or her profession.
- Nominee serves as a role model to other women in her profession and community.
- Nominee displays creativity and innovation and contributes these talents to the growth of her profession.
- Nominee contributes time and energy to community betterment.
The Sue Shelton White Award is given to a female attorney in West Tennessee who is a community activist and who has worked to create or change legislation to improve the lives of women and children in the state of Tennessee.
Nomination forms are due: By noon, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.
The Board of Selectors chooses winners: Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018.
Winners will be notified: Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2-3, 2018.
Winners bios are due by noon on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018; will be given to winners for their approval for the magazine on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018; submitted for the Sterling Awards magazine on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
Winners’ photographs will be taken: Sunday, March 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Memorial Hall, First Presbyterian Church, 1573 N Highland Ave, Jackson, TN 38301. The Memorial Hall is the large white-columned 1920s’ era home next to the church. Winners will be honored in the Sterling Awards magazine produced by The Jackson Sun.
Mail to: Middlebrooks & Gray, c/o Jackson Area BPW, P.O. Box 1985, Jackson, TN. 38302. Or drop by: 1651 Hollywood Drive, Jackson.
Save the date for you and your guests to attend the Sterling Awards 2018 awards ceremony and reception honoring 20 Most Influential Women of West Tennessee, the Sue Shelton White Award Winner, and the Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award, on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 6 p.m. at The J. Walter Barnes Conference Center in Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in Jackson. No reserved seats. Arrive early as there is usually a full audience.
Sterling Awards 2018 Application
Please check the category that best describes the area of business for the nominee:
___ Government and Public Service
___ Small Business/Entrepreneur
___ Business and Technology
___ Service (community, non-profit)
___ Other ______________________________
____Yes. Retired Military Veteran. Please consider for Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award.
__x__Yes. Female attorney. Please consider for Sue Shelton White Award. A community activist who has worked to create or change legislation to improve the lives of women and children in Tennessee.
Note: These categories are provided to indicate that the nominees reflect a wide range of careers and skills. Awards will not be given in each category.
Nominee’s Name: ____Mary Jo Middlebrooks__________________________________________
Company: ___Middlebrooks and Gray, PA _________________________ Title: ___Owner and Attorney at Law__________________________
Business Address: _P O Box 1985, Jackson, TN 38302___________________________________________
Home Address: 1514_Hollywood Drive, Jackson< TN___38305____________________________________________
Home Phone: __731 _668 5139___________ Business Phone: __731 423 2224___________ Cell: ___731 343 3906__________
Email Address: email@example.com___________________________________________________
Submitted By: _Beth Bates____________________________________________________
Company: ___West TN Legal Services, Inc. 210 West Main Street, Jackson, TN 38301_____________________________________________________
Home Phone: _731 427 0465______________ Business Phone: __731 426 1313___________Cell: _731 616 3618____________
Email Address: Batesb@aol.com___________________________________________________
- Using the above criteria, please attach a 1-page detailed summary stating why this woman is deserving of the Sterling Awards 2018.
- If available, please attach a current resume (2-page maximum) for the nominee.
- Personal letters recommending the nominee enhance the nominee’s opportunity for selection by highlighting something special you know about this person, above and beyond the resume.
Mary Jo Middlebrooks has been a tireless mentor for countless young women attorneys. She is a founding member of the Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women (TLAW). A chief founding purpose of TLAW is to promote women on the bench in Tennessee. Women now make up three of the five members of the Tennessee Supreme Court. She has also promoted and mentored at least two generations of women attorneys in West TN including Juvenile Judge Christy Little. One of the ways that she has done this is to found the Anne Schneider Chapter of the Lawyers Association for Women in the late 1980s. She continues to serve as treasurer and is the driving force for fundraising for one to two women law students each year. A prior recipient who was supported in her effects to run for judge is Chancellor Carmen McGee. For twelve years, she coached winning high school mock trial teams.
Mary Jo Middlebrooks has supported the Women’s Resource and Rape Assistance Program for decades. She serves as a specially trained mediator who is certified to mediate for domestic violence victims. She was honored as a Woman of Empowerment by WRAP in 2011.
Mary Jo has lobbied for women’s issues for approximately 40 years. She lobbied for the Equal Rights Amendment. This included going to Washington for its passage in Congress. She frequently lobbies for Equal Pay, reproductive freedom and equality for all. She is fearless and vocal for civil rights. Among other activities, she is active in the American Civil Liberties Union. She attends and lobbies for Women’s issues at the annual Woman’s Day on the Hill. The issues have included continuation of the Tennessee Economic Council for Women, protection of domestic violence victims, enhancement of spousal rape punishment, and the Equal Pay Remedies and Enforcement act.
Mary Jo is the longest serving member of the Jackson Area BPW. For over 20 years she sponsored and organized 5 days of speakers for National Business Women’s Week. She has lead the charge for Equal Pay locally; securing proclamations, having billboards erected, adding bus placards, passing out Pay Day candy bars.
She has also successfully raised a large portion of the funds needed to erect the Sue Shelton White Statue at City Hall in Jackson. She was part of a flash mob that commemorated suffrage in Jackson on one Women’s Equality Day. She is a member of the Yellow Rose Society that helped establish the Tennessee Women’s Suffrage Statute in Nashville’s Centennial Park. She did a fair amount of fundraising for that, too.
Mary Jo is a champion for her female clients in family court. She is feared by many otherwise cocky male attorneys. At the same time, she treats her, predominately female staff extremely well. She has been honored by the Jackson Legal Secretaries Association as Boss of the Year and by the Tennessee Paralegal Association. Her legal skills are superlative; she takes time to share her wisdom with other members of the bar.
Marion Scudder Griffin (1879-1957)
Marion Scudder Griffin was the first female attorney in Tennessee, as well as the first woman to serve in the Tennessee House. Upon moving to Memphis, she worked in Judge Thomas M. Scruggs’ office as a stenographer. She also began studying to obtain a law license. On February 15, 1900, she was certified by Chancellor Dehaven and Circuit Court Judge Estes for admission to the bar. Despite this, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Griffin a legal license on the basis of her sex twice, in 1900 and 1901. Undeterred, she began to study at the University of Michigan’s Law School, earning a Bachelor of Laws degree by 1906. She was one of two women in her graduating class.
Returning to Tennessee, she lobbied the state legislature to pass a law that would grant women the right to practice law. Though she was initially derided, she convinced the legislature and a bill was passed on February 13, 1907, and signed by Governor Patterson two days later. On July 1, 1907, Griffin was licensed by the Tennessee Supreme Court and sworn in as a member of the local bar. She went on to practice law in Memphis from 1907-1949.
In 1923, Griffin became the first woman ever elected to the Tennessee state House. As was noted in a commercial Appeal article of August 3, 1950, Griffin had the support of public figures like C.P.J. Mooney, the newspaper’s editor, during her campaign. She served a single term, headed the House Social Welfare Committee, and promoted various legislation affecting women and children.
The 3 Tennessee Trailblazers
These 3 Tennessee Trailblazers are featured around the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park
Jane Greenebaum Eskind (1933 – 2016)
Jane G. Eskind was the first woman to win a statewide election in Tennessee. Her victory in 1980 came 60 years after the 19th Amendment’s ratification.
Raised and educated in Louisville, KY, she attended Brandeis University, married Richard Eskind, completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Louisville, and moved to Nashville in 1956. The Eskind’s had a daughter, Ellen, and a son, Billy. She began an activist career first as a lobbyist for the Tennessee League of Women Voters from 1964-69. She became active in Democratic Party politics as a campaign worker, Democratic Women’s Club member and then representing Tennessee on the Democratic National Platform Committee. In 1974, she won election to the Democratic State Executive Committee.
She first ran for office in 1978 winning the Democratic primary to face U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. She was the first woman to either party’s nomination for statewide office. She lost to Baker, but won a seat on the former Public Service Commission and later served as chair. She ran for governor in 1986 placing second to Ned Ray McWherter for whom she campaigned vigorously in his successful race to become governor. In 1987, she made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in a special election.
In 1994, she became the first woman to chair the Tennessee Democratic Party having served earlier as president of the Democratic Women’s Club. Eskind also served in numerous leadership positions with various Democratic Party committees including the National Finance Council for President Bill Clinton. She was active with the Anti-Defamation League, the International Women’s Forum, and Women Executives in State Government. She chaired the Tennessee Commission on the Status of Women from 1978-1980. She was a trustee for the Vice-President’s Residence Foundation and served on the Brandeis University Board of Trust.
Numerous other organizations benefited from her service and advice. Women running for office always sought Eskind’s counsel. She was generous, thoughtful, accessible, insightful, and always supportive to those who sought her out.
Lois Marie DeBerry (1945 – 2013)
Lois M. DeBerry shattered the political glass ceiling when she was elected the first woman speaker pro tempore of the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1987. She served in that capacity until 2011. A former educator, she championed programs in health, education, and the criminal justice system, especially those affecting women and children. She was the first black woman elected to the House from Memphis (and second in the state), and she was the longest-serving member of the House at the time of her death in July 2013.
Rep. DeBerry, who was elected in 1972 and began serving in the legislature in January 1973, was the first female to chair the Shelby County legislative delegation. A founder of the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus, she served as president/president emeritus of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. She also was a founder of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, which named a scholarship in her honor. She achieved national and international renown for her leadership among members of the National Conference of State Legislators, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, Women in Government, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, the Southern Legislative Conference, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
The Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility, a maximum-security prison in Nashville operated by the state Department of Correction, opened in 1992. It houses prisoners with complex and multiple medical problems.
The longtime Delta Sigma Theta Sorority member served as an inspiration to women as a strong voice in the male-dominated world of politics. She was also active in the Memphis Chapter of The Links and the NAACP.
Beth Halteman Harwell (1957 – Present)
Suffrage is at last the law of the land
Outside the State Capitol on Aug. 18, 1920
Harry Burn is in the dark suit just right of center in the background, shaking hands with Anita Pollitzer. On the far left is Banks Turner of Yorkville, shaking hands with Catherine Flanagan. In front are Thomas Simpson, Betty Gram and Sue White. The women are members of the National Woman’s Party.
April 23, 1920: Prominent Members of the National Woman’s Party entering the Capitol to attend the Supreme Court Hearing on the Ohio Suffrage Referendum Case. Ohio has been counted in the ratification column but if the Court allows a referendum on Suffrage it will be necessary for the “Sufs” to obtain ratification in another state if women are to vote for the next President. Left to Right Mrs Richard Wainright [i.e. Wainwright], wife of Adml Wainright [i.e. Wainwright] and Member of the Ex Com. National Woman’s Party. Mrs Abby Scott Baker, Political Chairman Nat. Woman’s Party. and Miss Sue White, Chairman Research Div. Nat Woman’s Party.
Pictures Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division