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New exhibit at ETSU museum commemorates voting history

One hundred years ago women got the right to vote. That history was brought to life in a new exhibit at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University.
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 4:28 PM EDT
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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - One hundred years ago women got the right to vote. That history was brought to life in a new exhibit at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University.

Telling the story of suffrage in Appalachia through artifacts and displays came naturally for Rebecca Proffitt.

“It was all very exciting discoveries, you know, one right after the other of the important things that people in the local community did," said Proffitt.

As the collections manager at the Reece Museum, Proffitt spent a year researching with people in the community about women’s suffrage.

“So what you’re looking at here is kind of what you see when you’re first walking into the exhibit and it begins with a proclamation that the mayor of Johnson City made recognizing 2020 as the hundred year anniversary," explained Proffitt.

There was a living history portion to show how women would have events to discuss politics at one another’s homes while serving tea.

“The ladies who were organizing here were very involved in things happening in Knoxville and also in Nashville and a national level, so they had connections nationwide, if not internationally," said Proffitt.

These women were true pioneers.

Proffitt explained, “If it wasn’t for people in East Tennessee and even in Johnson City, then probably that 19th amendment may not have been ratified.”

The exhibit hit close to home for her as she reflected her own family’s roots.

“It was a really good way to look deeper into my own history. And I think that’s one of the really fascinating parts about doing community histories of this sort.”

The exhibit is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Because of the pandemic if more than four people are traveling in your group the museum staff ask you to make an appointment by calling (423) 439-4392.

The exhibit will run through January 22, 2021.

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