In the final years of the struggle to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote, Anne Dudley was central to both the national campaign (serving as National Director) and the critical struggle in her home state of Tennessee, which was to become the 36th and final state to support women’s suffrage, thus making the Amendment the law of the land.
Dudley, a woman of elegance and high social standing, ignored the natural constraints of her position to speak out with great force and persuasion on behalf of suffrage. She viewed women’s voting as “a matter of simple justice,” and became the founder and first president of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, and president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association.
In 1917 she was chosen Vice President of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, working closely with President Carrie Chapman Catt in planning the master strategies of the campaign that finally succeeded in 1920. Dudley became a vigorous and outspoken campaigner throughout the South, matching her speeches with articles for publication and work introducing legislation.
Dudley became the first woman in Tennessee to make an open-air speech, given after she led a march of 2,000 women from downtown Nashville to Centennial Park — the first suffrage parade in the South, in May 1914. She was also the first female associate of the Tennessee Democratic Committee, and the first female delegate-at-large of the National Democratic Convention in 1920.
Throughout her life and political career, Dudley lived and modeled her conviction regarding women and the rights they were due: “This is a government of, by and for the people, and only the law denies that women are people!”