The state Building Commission will decide on Thursday on a request to locate a statute on Legislative Plaza in Nashville to memorialize the culminating vote of the Tennessee legislature in 1920 to ratify the 19th, or Women’s Suffrage, amendment.
The request was unanimously approved last month by the Tennessee Capitol Commission.
The statue, to be designed by prominent sculptor Alan LeQuire, would be located in the vicinity of the state Capitol building and the Hermitage Hotel on a bridge connecting Legislative Plaza to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The site was selected by state architect Peter Heimbach.
Several of the Tennessee women involved in advancing suffrage will be cast in bronze, and a surrounding inscription will memorialize others responsible for advances for women in public life — including the late state Rep. Lois DeBerry of Memphis, the longtime Speaker Pro Tem of the state House of Representatives.
Paula Casey of Memphis, who has long been involved in the movement to commemorate Tennessee suffragists and who is president of Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument Inc., the foundation supporting the statue project, says that no state money is involved in the $900,000 project, which will be paid for by private fundraising, half of which has already been raised.
Casey said a “Perfect 36 Society” has been created for the first 200 women to create at least $500 each toward completion of the statue. Their names will also be inscribed into the base of the monument. Current plans are to have the monument completed and unveiled in October of this year.
The term “The Perfect 36” has been applied to Tennessee’s contribution to achieving women’s suffrage because the state’s ratification in 1920 was the crucial one putting the 19th Amendment over. The Perfect 36 is also the title of a 1998 commemorative history co-written by Janann Sherman, recently retired from the University of Memphis history department, and the late Carol Lynn Yellin.
Casey, who has long been involved in efforts to memorialize the Tennessee suffrage movement, was editorial coordinator for that volume.
“I can’t help but think how thrilled Carol Lynn would be to know of this [the monument],” said Casey, who said that, in addition to the Nashville monument and one already existing in Knoxville, further monuments to the suffragist movement are planned for Jackson and Memphis.
The Memphis monument will include a special citation to the late state Rep. Joseph Hanover of Memphis, a steadfast champion of universal suffrage, Casey said.
Casey credits Nashville attorney Alma Sanford with originating the idea for the Nashville monument and such Shelby Countians as state Representatives Johnnie Turner and Karen Camper and state Senator Mark Norris, as well as Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state Treasurer David Lillard for help in advancing the project.
Further information on the monument project is available at tnsuffragemonument.org.