C.M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library
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John P. Davis' Letter.
The following letter to Mrs.
French from the Hon. John P. Davis,
former state senator, contains matter,
which, coining from, a lawyer, is of supreme interest, and compels our eager
Tazewell, Tenm. Sept. 20. 1916.
Mrs. L. C. French, Knoxville. Tenn.,
Dear Madam:—In my letter to you of
October 27, 1913, on the subject of women suffrage, I said to you. "If a constitutional convention should be held in the
near future, women would be granted
the full rights of citizenship. Very few,
except whiskey men, would oppose such
a change in the constitution,"
Since that letter was written to you,
both of the great political parties of
the state have adopted platforms favoring women suffrage. If the convention had been called at the last August
election, without doubt my prediction
would have been verified: but a constitutional convention is not necessary.
Without a constitutional convention,
women have been enfranchised to the
extent that they can hold the offices of
notary public, county superintendent of
schools, other school offices, etc. The legislature can give women the right to
vote, just as easily as it has given them
the right to hold offices. All that is needed is a legislature willing to do this. If
the women of the state desire a law
passed giving them a right to vote, along
with other political privileges, they
should organize for the purpose of seeing that men are elected to the senate
and house who are pledged to vote for
If a republican should refuse to pledge
himself to work and vote for a law of
this kind, then he is not supporting the
republican party, is not a good republican, and no republican is under obligations to vote for him. If the democratic
candidate for the house or senate refuses to pledge himself in the same way,
then he is not a good democrat, and no
democrat is under obligations to support
him. A man with sufficient intelligence
and sufficient sense of justice to be
qualified to act as a member of either
the house or the senate will be positively
in favor of giving to women the right
to vote, or he will be indifferent on the
subject. There are enough legislative
districts where the vote will be close to
enable the women of the state to elect
a majority, of the members, by throwing
their combined influence in favor of the
candidate who will vote for their cause.
A well organized effort on the part of the
suffrage movement can give to the women of this state the right to vote before
next March. There is still plenty of
time for the leaders of the suffrage
movement to effect this organization, and
to bring about this result; but there is
no time to waste. We need not hope
for a constitutional convenion during our
lives: but the ends we have in view can
be obtained without a constitution convention.
Have candidates to give written pledges. Have them to agree to have local
bills passed, giving to the women of their
own counties the right to vote, if it
shall appear impossible to get a general
law passed. The first law authorizing
the election of a woman as notary public
was a local law, passed at the request
Senator Holliday and myself, in 1911,
and applying to Claiborne county and to
Putnam county. As the country did not
seem to suffer any great injury from this
law, a general law ,applying to the whole
state, has been enacted.
JNO. P. DAVIS.