Suffragist Katherine Burch Warner was born in Chattanooga, raised in Nashville, and educated at Vassar. The well-traveled Kate learned about politics through her father, John C. Burch, editor and publisher of the Nashville American and secretary of the U.S. Senate. She married Nashvillian Leslie Warner in 1880; the couple had three children, but all had died by 1886. Her husband’s weakening health led to early retirement, and the couple devoted themselves to travel and gracious entertainment until his death in 1909.
Warner had membership in various social and civic clubs and held an office in the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs. After 1909, she devoted more time to the state’s developing suffrage movement. Twenty years older than the other leading suffragists in Tennessee, she spoke with articulate determination at rallies, served as president of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, and in 1918 helped amalgamate the suffrage groups in Nashville and Chattanooga that had vied with one another since 1914. Warner became the newly united Tennessee Woman Suffrage Association’s first president. She also worked to distance the image of this group from the National Woman’s Party’s more militant one. In the summer of 1920, the nation’s interest in woman suffrage focused on Tennessee as the state that would, by ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment, make it into law. Warner’s ability to persuade people who favored the status quo to her point of view made her Governor A. H. Roberts’s choice to lead his appointed Ratification committee. In league with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Warner worked until the legislature ratified the amendment in August. Following this accomplishment, Warner expended her energy on behalf of the Daughters of the American Revolution until her death in 1923.
Anastatia Sims, “Powers that Pray and Powers that Prey: Tennessee and the Fight for Woman Suffrage,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 50 (1991): 203-25; Antoinette Elizabeth Taylor, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Tennessee (1957)