(Rerun for continuation purposes)
The War of the Roses was fought on two battlefields: The Hermitage Hotel and the state Capitol of Tennessee in Nashville. Individual rooms at the Hermitage offered one-on-one skirmishes. On the eighth floor of the Hermitage was an “invitation-only speakeasy known as the Jack Daniel’s Room where the whiskey flowed while legislators were filled with Anti arguments.” Tennessee had been a dry state since 1909, at least on paper. But as was known, “In Tennessee, whiskey and legislation go hand in hand, especially when controversial questions are urged. It’s the Tennessee way.”
The Suffs had accused the “liquor interests” of financing Anti activities throughout the states. Resolutions against women’s suffrage were commonly circulated in saloons that offered free drinks for signing and for voting “No” in a referendum. If women were to receive the vote, the “dry” women voters could destroy the liquor industry.
Each day on the calendar that August of 1920 produced enough drama to fill Tennessee newspapers with political maneuvers, defections, political double-crosses, and hints of bribery spoken as questions but understood to be accusations. Tennessee Gov. Albert H. Roberts had pledged loyalty and support for the 19th Amendment but had just discovered that his close ally Speaker of the House Seth Walker had suddenly and without explanation had a “change of conviction” and would not, as promised, maneuver the resolution through the House that would guarantee women of Tennessee and all American women the right to franchise: he would oppose ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Monday morning, Aug. 9, Speaker of the Senate Andrew Todd, who had voted against limited suffrage the year before, this year led the Senate to introduce Senate Joint Resolution #1. In the House, Speaker Seth Walker remained seated while others in the House introduced House Joint Resolution #1. And then both houses adjourned until the next morning. And the battlefield moved to the lobby of the Hermitage.
Women’s Party Suff Betty Gram, known for her femininity and plucky demeanor, approached Speaker Walker in the lobby, inquiring about the rumor of his intention to violate his pledge. Five incarcerations and hunger strikes emboldened this petite Oregonian sent to Nashville to save the Cause. The questions that garnered the biggest reactions involved questions as to the root of his change of position. Her grand finale included, “What has brought about the change in the house: the governor (Roberts) or the Louisville and Nashville Railroad? What kind of a crook are you: a Roberts crook or an L&N crook?” When Walker bellowed in denial at her she smiled the demure smile of Southern charm, “Why, I am just asking for information.” Gram’s “unladylike behavior” added fuel to the war of the sexes and “soft suasion” buffered the effects of the intrepid Women’s Party.
Something was afoot in Nashville: strange men moved through the lobby of the Hermitage, legislators were defecting from support of the amendment and moving to rejection of the 19th Amendment.
Part X: The Defection of Speaker Seth Walker and Tennessee Manhood Soroptimist Mission: Soroptimist is a global volunteer organization that provides women and girls with the access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. Soroptimist International seek equality, peace, and international goodwill for women.