The 19th Amendment
WOMEN’s Suffrage

In the summer of 1920, a fundamental right was at stake – one that many women had been advocating for since 1848 – and it all came down to Tennessee.

Hermitage Hotel History & The 19th Amendment

In 1920, the United States were in the process of ratifying the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which would grant women the right to vote. Tennessee’s Governor called an August special session to debate this hotly contested issue, leading pro- and anti-suffrage leaders, special interest groups, and journalists to descend upon Nashville from across the country. The eyes of the nation were on the Tennessee – the last remaining state with the power to ratify, or nullify, the 19th Amendment.

With this vote, a fundamental right was at stake, one that many women had been advocating for since 1848. Read more to learn about the Hermitage Hotel history and the vital role the historic hotel played during the 19th Amendment.

Woman suffragette having tea.
Yellow roses with dew

Since opening in 1910, The Hermitage Hotel served as a hub for state politics, situated one block from the state Capitol. As such, The Hermitage was the obvious location for women’s Pro- and Anti-Suffrage groups to set up their headquarters. Carrie Chapman Catt, an international Pro-suffrage leader, stayed in a suite on the third floor at our hotel for six weeks. She set up the Pro-suffrage command post in her room, guiding the strategies of the Pro-suffragists’ campaign. Josephine Pearson, the resolute leader of the Anti-suffragists, checked in at The Hermitage Hotel as well. The anti-suffragists were eager to keep an eye on both Tennessee lawmakers and their pro-suffrage adversaries.

Leading up to the final vote, The Hermitage was filled to the brim with Pro- and Anti-suffrage campaigners tirelessly debating, earning its nickname “The Third House.” With the Anti-Ratification forces sporting red roses squaring off against the yellow-rose-wearing Pro-Suffrage campaigners, the conflict came to be known as “The War of the Roses.”

Bottle of Jack Daniels with a drinking glass in front.

Pro- and Anti-suffragists believed adamantly in the righteousness of their cause, and many would resort to dishonest means to meet their ends. There was collusion, there was bribery, there was spying. The atmosphere at The Hermitage was tense and heated!

On the eighth floor, Anti-suffragists enticed legislators with free whiskey and bourbon in a de facto speak easy that came to be known as the “Jack Daniel’s Suite.” The causes of prohibition and women’s suffrage were closely linked, so they sought to persuade lawmakers with Tennessee’s favorite beverage. One morning, the suffragist leader Carrie Catt woke to find a bottle of bourbon slipped under her pillow, in an attempt to defame the Pro-suffrage cause.

Woman holding a

As heated debate progressed in the state Capitol, the intensity smoldered at The Hermitage Hotel up until the final hour.

Throughout the “War of the Roses” until the morning of the vote, young state senator Harry T. Burn had been sporting a red rose to mark his Anti-suffrage position. On the morning of August 18, in a move that shocked the world, Burn walked into the chamber, stepped up to vote “aye” and tore the red rose off his lapel. That morning, Harry T. Burn had received a letter from his mother urging him to vote for suffrage, and he decided his mother knew best. Burn slipped from the legislature following the vote and scurried to The Hermitage Hotel, where he called his mother to tell her that women’s suffrage would be the law of the land.

A single tie-breaking vote tipped the scales – a shining example that every single vote matters! The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was successfully passed on August 18, 1920 and signed into law on August 26, granting nearly twenty-seven million women across the country the right to vote.

19th amendment centennial nashville commemoration logo

The Hermitage Hotel played an integral role in the fight toward women’s suffrage. Today, we play an integral role in preserving and celebrating this momentous chapter in American history.