Persistence in the fight for voting rights: Honoring N.C.’s first female legislator

Lillian Exum Clement was a native of Black Mountain and the first female legislator in the Southeast. She was the fourth woman in North Carolina to pass the state bar exam and the first practicing female attorney without male partners. 

The lady legislator: Jackson County gave N.C. its first female senator

Now 75, Cashiers resident Ann Austin was just 3 years old when her grandmother died following a sudden cardiac episode. 

Suffrage was slow for Black voters

When the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, women throughout the nation began to vote for the first time. But for a long time, the rights granted in that amendment were realized mainly by white women. 

“Our ancestors, our forefathers, they were hurt because they had fought for suffrage too for the 19th Amendment, and it didn’t really do any good,” said Ellerna Forney, a Sylva native who is Black. “But they still kept fighting.”

For the Cherokee, disenfranchisement was locally controlled

In 1930, a young man named Henry Owl traveled to the Ravensford election precinct in Swain County to register to vote. 

Owl was a U.S. Army Veteran, and a college graduate. He held a master’s degree, in fact, having finished the UNC Chapel Hill graduate program in history the previous year. At Lenoir College, where he began his undergraduate studies in 1925, he was elected “Most Popular Boy” and competed as a star athlete in football and baseball, earning posthumous induction to the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. 

After Anthony: NC women still struggle for representation

It’s been almost exactly 100 years since the 19th Amendment — often called the Anthony Amendment — was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.

Lassie Kelly: Franklin’s most influential suffragette

It’s fun to imagine what the people of Macon County must have thought of Lassie Kelly. Born in 1881, she was regarded as a “vivid leader” in Franklin and an actively engaged community member until her death in 1963. 

‘We believe in democracy’: For commissioner’s wife, winding road leads to citizenship, voting rights

With the 19th Amendment’s passage now 100 years in the rearview, most American women alive today have been eligible to vote since the age of 18, or 21 for those who came of age before 1971. Balsam resident Luisa Teran de McMahan, however, was 40 years old before she was allowed to cast an American ballot. 

The Anthony Amendment: Women’s suffrage in NC and beyond

When the United States Constitution was adopted in 1787, left to the states was the power to determine who should be allowed to vote in elections. While several states indeed permitted some women to vote in various elections, the right of suffrage was far from universal. 

Women celebrate a century of suffrage

In recognition of the 19th Amendment’s centennial anniversary this month, The Smoky Mountain News highlights the historic events leading up to the amendment’s ratification in August 1920, perhaps WNC’s most influential suffragette and the importance of the women’s vote in today’s political climate.

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