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Anne Dallas Dudley

Anne Dallas Dudley during her term as president of the Tennessee Suffrage Association.

Anne Dallas Dudley, a national and state leader in the woman suffrage movement, was the daughter of a prominent Nashville family. She received her education at Ward Seminary and attended Price's College in Nashville. She married Guilford Dudley, one of the founders of the Life and Casualty Insurance Company in Nashville, and they maintained a country estate in west Nashville.

After joining a local suffrage association in 1911, she was elected in 1915 as the president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association and served until 1917, when she was elected third vice-president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The circles in which Anne Dallas Dudley moved frowned upon the idea of women voting, yet she became a tireless worker, campaigning throughout the state, organizing suffrage leagues, and speaking across the United States. Under her leadership, suffrage became more acceptable, and more women joined the movement. Abby Milton of Chattanooga and Catherine Kenny of Nashville worked closely with Dudley in organizing the suffrage movement in Tennessee.

Dudley's two children were frequently photographed as they led suffrage parades with their mother across Nashville, and a photograph of Dudley reading with her two children was widely circulated with suffrage publicity materials. These photographs were a deliberate effort by the suffragists to counteract negative stereotypes of suffragists as mannish, childish radicals who were attempting to destroy the American family.

Dudley addressed congressional committees and spoke to national audiences urging passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Adept at handling anti-suffrage arguments, she responded to criticism that equated male suffrage with military service by pointing out that "women bear armies."

In 1920 Dudley attended the Democratic national convention in San Francisco as the first woman delegate-at-large. On her way to the podium to make a seconding speech, the band spontaneously struck up the familiar tune, "Oh, You Beautiful Doll." In August of that same year Dudley successfully worked to achieve the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment by the Tennessee General Assembly and thereby add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She continued her political involvement through the fall of 1920 as a volunteer in Governor Albert H. Roberts's unsuccessful reelection bid. Though she was never active in the newly created League of Women Voters, she helped organize the Woman's Civic League of Nashville to assist elected officials in a needed "municipal house-cleaning." More than thirty-five years before the passage of metropolitan government in Nashville, this group fought for an end to overlapping city efforts and public education on health issues. In the 1930s Dudley served as president of the Maternal Welfare Organization of Tennessee. This group brought birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger to Nashville in 1938 to increase public awareness of birth control.

Dudley's likeness appears in the painting Pride of Tennessee, which hangs in the Capitol. She is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

Suggested Reading

Antoinette E. Taylor, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Tennessee (1943).

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010