NPT documentary shows how Tennessee made history ‘By One Vote’

(l-r) Linda Wynn and LaTonya Turner

Tennessee’s pivotal impact on the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is chronicled in a film recently screened on the MTSU campus.

For only the second time ever, the documentary By One Vote: Woman Suffrage in the South was shown on March 3 in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.

Produced by Nashville Public Television and narrated by country singer Rosanne Cash, the film guides the viewer through the events leading up to the all-male Tennessee General Assembly’s vote to approve the amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.

The amendment reads, in full, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Prior to the screening, MTSU conducted the official opening ceremony of its National Women’s History Month celebration. The official theme of this year’s observance is ‘Nevertheless She Persisted: Valiant Women of the Vote.’ The film’s executive producer, NPT President Emerita Beth Curley, introduced the documentary.

“Beth talked about the making of that film, the planning of that film, the efforts that it took, how the producers put it together,” said Mary Evins, coordinator for the American Democracy Project at MTSU and associate professor of history in the University Honors College.

A select group of women ‘trailblazers’ from among MTSU’s faculty, staff, students and alumnae were also honored.

Previously, By One Vote had been shown publicly only once at the Tennessee State Museum in November 2019.

“They were gracious to come to us back in the fall even before the showing at the Tennessee State Museum to ask if MTSU would be the university host for it,” Evins said. “They know what a civically engaged campus we are, how much we care about voting and how much we advance the scholarship of women’s suffrage.”

Following the documentary, Curley participated in a panel discussion titled ‘By One Vote: Woman Suffrage in the South 100 Years Later.’

Joining Curley were longtime broadcast journalist and executive producer of the new Nashville Banner Demetria Kalodimos, independent producer/editor Mary Makley and Fisk University professor Linda Wynn. NPT journalist LaTonya Turner moderated the event.

The event was sponsored by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the National Women’s History Month Committee and the American Democracy Project.