All American women vote today thanks to Tennessee. Tennessee was the last state of the then 48 states that could possibly ratify the 19th Amendment, which granted all American women the right to vote in 1920. Editorial cartoonists called the state “The Perfect 36” since three-quarters of the states were necessary for ratification. 96 years later, a monument to the suffragists’ victory, commissioned by Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, Inc., was unveiled in Nashville’s Centennial Park this past August. It features five women who were actually in Nashville during the final ratification effort: Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville; Frankie Pierce of Nashville; Sue Shelton White of Jackson; Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, and Carrie Chapman Catt, the national suffrage leader. TN Rep. Harry Burn, after getting a letter from his mother, changed his vote to yes for suffrage, and the legislature made Tennessee the deciding state to ratify the 19th Amendment.
When Sharon Weible, curator of Pleasant Hill’s Pioneer Hall Museum, noticed a book of plays and poems by Abby Milton that was personally dedicated to Dr. May Cravath Wharton, “Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands,” she wondered who Abby Milton was and what was her connection to Dr. Wharton. Thanks to the internet, Weible discovered that Abby Crawford Milton was the last president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association and the first president of the League of Women Voters of Tennessee. In the History of Uplands Cumberland Mountain Sanatorium, Abby Crawford Milton was listed as a member of the Uplands Board of Directors in 1935 and 1946.
Abby Crawford Milton became involved in the suffrage movement after marrying newspaper publisher George Fort Milton, moving from Georgia to Chattanooga, and giving birth to three daughters. Milton received a law degree from the Chattanooga College of Law. Like many dedicated suffragists, Milton traveled across the state giving speeches and organizing suffrage leagues in small communities. During the height of the 1920 battle for the ratification of the 19th Amendment to grant women suffrage, Milton spent the entire month of August in Nashville lobbying members of the General Assembly to secure pro-suffrage votes. Milton was the youngest of the Tennessee suffrage leaders. Born in 1881, she was 38 years old when the amendment passed.
Upon her husband's death, she published the Chattanooga News until it was sold in the 1930s. She attended Democratic national conventions as a delegate-at-large. Milton was unsuccessful in her own bid for state political office. She also worked to secure the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Abby Milton died in 1991 at the age of 110. It is not known how she crossed paths with Dr. Wharton and became a member of the Uplands Sanatorium Board of Directors in Pleasant Hill. Perhaps as Milton was organizing suffrage leagues she came to Cumberland County and there met Dr. May. Obviously the two women had much in common as they worked to improve the lives of those around them, especially women. To find out more about life in Pleasant Hill during that time, visit Pioneer Hall on Main St. across from the Pleasant Hill Elementary School. The museum is open every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m., for your visits until the end of October. If you have visitors at any other time, feel free to call Sharon at 277-5226, Jeanne at 277-3111 or Chris at 277-3742. They will try to arrange a special tour. Visit www.pioneerhallmuseum.net.
This week in Pleasant Hill:
Tuesday, Oct. 11 — 10 a.m., Fletcher House. Munson Home 2, 11:15 a.m.: Nan and Ron Wilkins playing and singing.
Tuesday, Oct. 11 — 6 p.m., Pleasant Hill Town Council meeting at PH Town Hall, 351 E. Main St. Call 277-3813.
Wednesday, Oct. 12 – 1:30 p.m. in Wharton Munson Home. Looney Tunes: Ann Looney plays piano or accordion. All are welcome to enjoy.
Wednesday, Oct. 12 — 5:30 p.m. Documentary: “Slavery by Another Name” in Room 4, PH Community Church, UCC; Main Street & Church Drive in Pleasant Hill.
Thursday, Oct. 13 – 10 a.m. in PH Community House. “Conversation with Hugh Thomforde” about his USAID experiences leading workshops for cooperatives in other countries.
Thursday, Oct. 13 — 10 a.m. in Heritage Hall. Memory Care Support Group. All are welcome.
Thursday, Oct. 13 — 7 p.m., Community Bridge, Fletcher House Dining Room, all are welcome. Call 277-5005.
Friday, Oct. 14 — Cumberland Trail Black Mountain, Crab Orchard 1.2 mile loop hike. Meet at 10 a.m. in the PH Community Church parking lot on the corner of Church & Main St to carpool.
Saturday, Oct. 15 — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., The Grab thrift shop in Pleasant Hill will hold a special $1/bag Sale to prepare for providing space for more winter clothes. Call 287-3018. NOTE: The Grab does not have a public bathroom.
Sunday, Oct. 16 — 2 p.m., Adshead Hall of Fletcher House, opera video: “The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart. All are welcome.