Suffrage exhibit opens in Cookeville

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Cookeville History Museum docent Linda Henderson checks out part of the new “Suffrage Centennial 1920-2020” exhibit.

Ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, giving women the right to vote was a landmark moment in American and Tennessee history.

Cookeville History Museum is marking that moment 100 years later with the opening of a new exhibit, “Suffrage Centennial 1920-2020.

“We’re so glad we were able to reopen the Cookeville History Museum in time for this huge occasion that is a celebration of women’s right to vote in the U.S.,” Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager, said. “It’s a special honor for all of us across the state of Tennessee.”

The exhibit features traveling displays from Tennessee State Museum and National Archives. It will also include Putnam County’s own story.

“We will tell the tales of local women, both anti- and pro-suffrage, and show artifacts from the era,” Thompson said.

Tennessee State Museum’s portion of the exhibit, “To Make Our Voices Heard: Tennessee Women’s Fight for the Vote”, was organized with Tennessee State Library and Archives and funded in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of National Endowment for the Humanities. It explores the history of the women’s suffrage movement, Tennessee’s vote to ratify the 19th Amendment and the years that followed.

Chuck Sherrill of the Tennessee State Library and Archives said, “Tennessee’s role in becoming the 36th and final state to ratify the 19th Amendment not only solidified women’s right to vote but propelled women across the country to opportunities and futures they never thought possible.”

National Archives’ part of the exhibit, presented in part by Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and National Archives Foundation, is titled “Rightfully Hers”. It explores the history of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women’s voting rights before and after the amendment and its impact today.

Jennifer N. Johnson, “Rightfully Hers” co-curator, said, “The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a landmark moment in American history that dramatically changed the electorate, and although it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution fuller citizenship for women, many remained unable to vote.”

Thompson said Cookeville History Museum is fortunate to be among museums, libraries, and schools across the state and country to be receiving these traveling displays.

Her goal for Cookeville’s exhibit is twofold.

“One, we want to celebrate 100 years since this milestone, and two, we want to make sure all of our guests walk away knowing the importance of Tennessee’s role in ‘the perfect 36,’ when Tennessee was the deciding vote to ratify the 19th Amendment,” she said.

“Suffrage Centennial 1920-2020” continues through October. Admission is free.

Cookeville History Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 40 East Broad Street. For more information call 931-520-5455.