In 1920, the Tennessee legislature cast the tie breaking vote to ratify the 19th Amendment to the constitution– a historic moment that granted women the right to vote in this country. While this still did not give all women the right to vote, it did open a door that ultimately led to guarantee this important right to every citizen regardless of gender or race. On that day 100 years ago, cities across the country rang their bells in celebration, but Nashville did not.
On August 18, Belmont University joined the Nashville Public Library and countless other universities, churches and organizations across the city to break this silence by ringing bells 100 times in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
The loudest bell at Belmont was the carillon in the Bell Tower, played by Dr. Richard Shadinger, but university employees also stood at the bottom of the tower and on the perimeter streets of campus ringing bells of all kinds and holding signs that echoed signs the suffragists carried over 100 years ago.
The carillon bells were proudly shared in a live video on Belmont’s Instagram account, in addition to many videos of men and women from across the Belmont community explaining why they ring their bells. Dr. Susan West, vice president and chief of staff, offered an introduction during the live video.
“This moment is a chance to recognize and celebrate the fact that in our country every voice – and every vote – matters. I’m hopeful that Belmont students around the country are watching right now, and will keep watching while the Bell Tower rings out. And that you will use this time to reflect on the fact that whoever you are, whether you are male or female, whatever your background or upbringing, whatever the color of your skin – you matter, and your voice matters,” she said. “Thank you for being here today to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Allow me to issue a challenge you – the RIGHT to vote means nothing if we don’t exercise that right. Voting in our elections is the best way you can make your voice heard – and your voice matters. If you are not registered to vote, I encourage you visit the website vote.gov and learn how to register today.”
The event coincided with the Nashville Public Library’s virtual grand opening of the new Votes for Women Room, in which Director of Community Relations Joyce Searcy and junior Chloe Bellgardt played a part. Learn more about the exhibit and watch the virtual opening celebration on the Library’s website.
Belmont faculty and alumni also participated in the State of Tennessee’s live, historical re-enactment of the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment for Women’s right to vote at the Tennessee State Capitol. “Our Century! Living Tennessee’s History of the Ratification,” streamed live from the floor of the House chamber at the State Capitol – the same day and place it did a century ago. Theatre Professor Brent Maddox played Representative Harry Burns, Theatre Adjunct Professor Eric Pasto-Crosby played Representative Hall, 2003 commercial music alumna Aleta Myles played a suffragette and 2016 theatre performance alumna Morgan Condor Davis played a suffragette. Music alumna Melinda Doolittle performed “America the Beautiful.”
The events kicked off Belmont’s Debate-related programming for the semester with two other events to follow. In an email to campus, Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “I can think of no better way to start our fall semester than with such a unifying moment, especially considering that Belmont will be hosting the third and final Presidential Debate just 11 days before Election Day. I hope you will join us in whatever way you can.”
On August 18, O’More College of Architecture & Design presented “Engaging Communities Through Creativity: Art Force 5 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment Ratification” through Zoom. Dan Napolitano, assistant dean of Alfred University’s School of Art and Design, shared about the Art Force 5’s efforts to promote equality, inspire creativity, build community, teach history and sow empathy. This student organization has spent the past year building a visual tribute to female empowerment, honoring the anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
On August 19, the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business will present “DEBATE 2020: Hardship to Hard Work: The Role of Women and the State of Tennessee in Passing the 19th Amendment.” State Parks Ranger Laura Franklin provided a deep, interactive analysis into the history leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment and Tennessee’s crucial role in the Amendment’s passing and women receiving the right to vote in 1920.