The Woman That Changed History for Voters

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Susan B. Anthony. Those are the two names you most often hear when discussing the historical dawn of women’s rights and the fight for equality. But did you know there was actually a third person that was just as remarkable when it came to changing the course of women’s lives in the United States?

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Meet Anne Dallas Dudley (1876-1955) – Nashville native, political activist, historical linchpin. She’s the woman whose final insistence led to the ratification of the 19th amendment giving all women the right to vote. The year was 1920.  The month was August. The city was Nashville.

At the time, the support of 36 states were needed in order to adopt the amendment that stated all citizens would not be denied the right to vote on the account of gender. Washington (state #35)  had signed on in mid-March 1920 but six long months had past and the last state needed had not officially come forth. Anne, 43 years old and already ten years into her fight for female equality, was working tirelessly, campaigning hard for the suffragist movement.

Anne Dallas Dudley organized one of many Nashville parades i order to help gain support for the fight for freedom
Anne Dallas Dudley organized one of many Nashville parades in order to help gain support for the fight for women’s right.

Coming from a politically-minded family (her grand-uncle, George Dallas was the 11th Vice President of the United States) Anne was very active in her community through various charities and organizations. Early on in her volunteerism, she witnessed on a daily basis what little attention was paid to problems surrounding domestic issues that affected the lives of women and children. Year after year these problems piled up with no solutions in sight. Needs were not being recognized and little regard was being given to the singular female voice.

Anne was determined to change all that. She felt that if women had the right to vote, just as men did, than many of the problems facing the day to day operations of the country could be erased and  a more copacetic environment between the sexes encouraged.  This was a long tedious battle not only waged against the mind-sets of most men but also against the mind-sets of some women.  Anti-suffragists were some of Anne’s biggest troublemakers. Believing that men would be “feminized” if they succumbed to the power of women voters, anti-suffragists accused equality supporters of being un-ladylike, un-American and at its most dramatic times, downright hedonistic.

National headquarters for both the suffragist movement and the anti-suffragist movement were located in Nashville's Hermitage Hotel on 6th Avenue.
National headquarters for both the suffragist movement and the anti-suffragist movement were located here in Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel on 6th Avenue.

Between 1911 and 1920 Anne lived her beliefs, day in and day out, educating, encouraging and emulating the spirit of the modern-minded woman.  Through her non-stop service and participation organizing rallies and parades, hosting conventions and meetings and serving as president on the boards of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, the Tennessee Equal Suffrage League and the National American Woman Suffrage Association Anne kept hammering her ideas of political freedom home.

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Her relentless and dedicated efforts attracted a mass of supporters that eventually turned her state of Tennessee into the collective voice needed to twist the fate of voting history.   If Anne had not climbed the political mountain and shouted from the highest peaks the importance of equality for all, women would not have been able to vote in the 1920’s. Her crusade, along with the valiant efforts of many kindred spirits and supporters of the cause made the ability for all women’s opinions to be heard.

Various national campaign materials from around the United States.
Various national campaign materials from around the United States.

This 2016 election year might just go down in history as one of the most controversial and complicated presidential campaigns ever presented. Of course, politics always yield mixed emotions and passionate beliefs, but this year in particular it seems there are more people torn apart by indecision rather than fervor. If you find yourself falling into the murky waters of who to vote for and why, Ms. Jeannie wants to remind you of one luxurious little fact:

Today we can vote. Today we have the opportunity to vote.

Anne took care of that for all of us. So we owe it to her to go out and exercise our very rights that she fought so hard to realize. Go out and vote. If you don’t want to advertise your decision with a political party campaign button on your lapel than in its place, pin a yellow rose. That was the symbol the suffragists used to express their support for women voters. That’s the symbol you can use to express your gratitude to Anne and all that she has enabled us to do and say both publicly and politically.

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The moment the votes were counted on the Senate floor declaring to approve the 19th amendment – August 29, 1920.

Happy election day dear readers and cheers to Anne for giving all women a voting voice.

History Hitting Home: Franklin and the Four Faces

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Clockwise from top left: Fountain Branch Carter, his wife Polly Carter, Albert Thornton Edwards, Albert’s wife Martha Jane Brewer

In late November of 1864 bullet holes riddled the house of Fountain Branch Carter and his wife Polly. The shots were fired by thousands of men in a little known but significantly bloody battle that took place in Franklin, Tennessee during one of the final fights of the American Civil War.

One of the men on the firing side was Albert Thornton Edwards, Ms. Jeannie’s great great grandfather. At the time of this battle he was a young Union soldier of 24, serving in the Ohio cavalry.

The Confederate army was on their way to Nashville to recapture their state capitol. The Union Army was coming up from Atlanta to stop them from capturing the city. The small rural town of Franklin, and the plantation of Fountain Branch and Polly Carter happened to be on the way and consequently in the way.

Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org
The Carter House – home of Fountain Branch and Mary Armistead Atkinson “Polly” Carter. Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org

It was early morning on November 30th, 1864 when Union General Jacob Cox  knocked on the front door of Fountain Branch’s house, walked in and declared his intentions to set up headquarters. He told Fountain Branch that he and his family were free to go about the house as they liked and continue their usual activities of the day. He then laid down to take a nap in the front parlour while his aides shuffled in setting up field camp materials in the two front rooms of the house.

Union General John Jacob Cox
Union General John Jacob Cox

No one expected that a battle would take place that day in the backyard of this pretty plantation. Not General Jacob Cox, not Fountain Branch Carter and certainly not any of the residents of the peaceful town of Franklin. But of course, war has a way of surprising everyone.

By nightfall, Union soldiers would attack the Confederate soldiers and the Confederates would fight back. Within a five hour time time span from mid-day to sundown over 10,000 casualties would be sustained and 3,000 soldiers, both Union and Confederate, would lose their lives right there in the yard including one son of Fountain Branch and Polly.

Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.
Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.

When bullets were blazing fast and furious Fountain Branch took his family, house servants and some neighbors down to the basement where they waited out the warring in a dark, cold room made of brick and stone. On the outside, in the yard, Albert fought his battles for the Union cause on horseback, a select skill that took so much training the military almost deemed it pointless for the amount of  time it consumed and experience it required. As night crept across the sky it became harder and harder for  the soldiers to see who and what they were shooting at. Mayhem set in and men fell on both sides. Some piled two or three bodies high all around the plantation.

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Ms. Jeannie toured the Carter House last week unaware of the fact at the time that Albert had participated in the fighting there. Her sympathies that day definitely lay with the Carter family and the horrific hours they had to endure as the war raged all around their home. She was especially struck by the haphazard splattering of bullet holes still evident in the clapboard on the back porch.

Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.
Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.

It wasn’t until Ms. Jeannie was back at home herself going through the service records of Albert (one of her only ancestors to fight in the Civil War) that she discovered his involvement there at the Carter House. One of those back porch bullet holes could have come from Albert.

It is startling to know that an ancestor witnessed such a tragic day but even more so knowing that he actually played a hand in making it tragic.  Of course Albert was just doing his job – trying to be a  good soldier two years into fighting a war he believed in. But there he was nonetheless, shooting at a house with innocent people inside.  In looking back on that event and these two men of history who faced each other on opposites sides, Ms. Jeannie couldn’t help but think how similar they really were.

Fountain Branch and Polly were long-time loves, married for almost 30 years and had 10 children between them. Albert following the Battle of Franklin would muster out of the military 8 months later and head home to Ohio so he could marry his bride Martha and move west via covered wagon to Iowa. Albert and Martha would go on to have 11 kids and celebrate 56 years of marriage. Neither spouse in either family remarried after their significant other passed away. Both families knew the loss of young children, both were farmers, both revered citizens in their communities and both of course survived the horrors of the Battle of Franklin. Albert sustained eye injuries somewhere between Franklin and Nashville which he carried with him for the rest of his life. Fountain Branch lost his 24 year old son Tod in Franklin who had insisted on joining the fight that day to defend both his family’s land and the ideals of the Confederacy.

The one main difference of these two men living in 19th century America was their philosophies on equality for all people. While Ms. Jeannie isn’t excited that Albert could have potentially destroyed someone’s home and family she is proud that her great great grandfather was fighting for the very freedoms that she enjoys today, 150 years later. She’s also thankful that the Carter House has survived all these years so that she can see first-hand her family’s impression on history and walk in the footsteps of a man who lived four generations before her.

Read more stories about Albert and Martha here, here and here including pictures of Albert’s civil war inkwell and Martha’s honeymoon quilt handmade on her wagon trip west just after she was married. Read more about the Carter House and the Battle of Franklin here.

If you have any surprising stories in your family history, please share them in the comments section. You just never know what we might discover!