Legal Status of Women in Tennessee and The Present Legislature
Since Ossoli circle in 1909 passed a
resolution asking the Tennessee Federation of Women's club to make a thorough investigation of the legal status of
Tennessee women, an agitation has been
almost continually going on, until now
the meekest women in the state no
longer say they have all the rights they
want, but acknowledge they would like
to control their own property and have
some share in the guardianship of their
The present legislature in one respect
will be unique, for if all plans are carried out, for the first time in the history
of the state members of the legislature
will realize that the people of the state
are interested in having laws made for
the bettering of the condition of mothers
The statutes of Tennessee on record
at present appear to be primarily to protect men, especially husbands. The man
who marries a rich woman is perfectly
secured in his rights to her wealth, and
there is no adequate punishment for him
if he fails to provide for wife and children. He can squander all on dissolute
companions and go entirely unpunished
as far as Tennessee law is concerned.
Some Bills to be Presented.
The Federation of Women's clubs and the bar
association will see that a bill
is presented asking for the removal of
the coverture of the old English common
law from married women. This
would allow the married woman to re-
tain full control of her property. It is
possible a bill may be presented asking
that mothers be made joint guardians
with fathers of their children.
Pensions for Mothers.
G. H. Robertson, president of
the Tennessee branch of the Mothers' congress,
will have presented a bill asking
for a small pension for mothers who
have small children and no means of
support. Several states have passed such
bills believing it will cost much less to
enable the mother to stay at home and
take care of the children than for her
to work out of her home while the chil-
dren run on the street and get their
training for the penitentiary.
The Mothers' congress also have a
bill to be presented asking that the kindergarten be made a part of the schools
of the stare.
Women on School Boards.
Another bill this legislature will be
asked to pass is one making women
eligible to school boards.
Not until 1907 was the law passed
that members of county boards of education, "'must be qualified voters."
I have made diligent inquiry as to
why such a stricture was put upon the
women of Tennessee, when other states
were giving their daughters such positions and even more important ones.
I was told this was done to please the
professional politicians, because they regard
boards of education as among their
best political assets and they would not
find it quite so easy to manipulate
women members of the boards. So our
schools must suffer to please the politician who has been preying upon poor
Tennessee- so successfully for so long a
time. We should have a law making it
obligatory to have two members of every
board of education in the state women.
Votes for Women.
The best lawyers in the state have
been consulted and they express the
opinion that no constitutional amendment
is necessary to give the vote to the
women of Tennessee, but that the legislature has full power to extend the
right of suffrage as there is nothing in the
constitution forbidding it. It is
likely, therefore, that such a bill will
be brought before the present legislature.
Many of the leading men of Tennessee
are for the enfranchisement of women
and it would not surprise some people
if this legislature were to pass a bill to
that effect. All intelligent men and
women concede that the victory for
equal suffrage has been won and it only
remains for the remaining states to make
formal surrender. Why should Tennessee
wait to come in to line at the end,
when it will no longer be respectable to
carry arms against the cause of women.
L. CROZIER FRENCH.
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