The women who fought for the right to vote in Tennessee, more than 100 years ago, often had to face down social and family disapproval.
One of those women, Frances Davis, marched in a suffrage parade a few years before the historic vote that ratified the 19th Amendment. The march was most likely in 1916, she told WPLN’s Anita Bugg on the 75th anniversary of ratification, though her memory of those years was vague.
“I always had felt that we had a right to do anything we wanted,” said Davis, who was 101 years old during her 1995 interview. “And my father felt that. But he didn’t think women should feel the same way, I don’t reckon.”
Davis’s father was an outspoken critic of suffrage: Frank C. Bond was one of the prominent Nashville leaders who spoke at an anti-suffrage rally at the Ryman. At the time, 23-year-old Frances still lived with her father and sister. Still, she marched from Centennial Park to downtown that day.
A family friend spotted her and relayed the event to her father.
“I didn’t mention it when I got home. I didn’t feel like anybody was interested in hearing about it, particularly my father. I didn’t know whether he’d be mad at me, or what.”
But it turned out, Frank Bond understood his daughter’s spirited nature and allowed her actions to go unchallenged.
“When he heard about it, he just thought it was a big joke. He laughed, and he never said anything to me about it,” Davis said — despite his feelings “that a woman should take her politics from a husband and a man should take his religion from his wife. He really thought that.”
For Davis, that day in 1916, marching along with other Nashville women, marked her only involvement with the suffrage movement. Even though she later dismissed her actions that day as “nothing really,” a little bit of pride showed in her eyes.
Davis died in 1999, at age 105.
This story is part of our coverage of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.