Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Amelia Terrett, 1870-1920

By Jacob Ellis, County Archivist, Rhea County Archives

President and founder, Nashville Woman Suffrage Association; Member of Nashville Equal Suffrage League;

Amelia B. Terrett was born on April 19, 1870 in Fairfax County, Virginia to Nathaniel Terrett and Jane McCabe. Rather than marrying, she chose to focus on her education and the education of others. In 1891, Amelia graduated from the University of Nashville with a Bachelor of Arts and a licentiate of instruction. The following year, she enrolled in the university's post-graduate program and graduated in 1893 with a Master of Arts. During her post-graduate schooling, she was awarded a Peabody Medal for her prize-winning essay titled, "Educational Value of the Newspaper."

After graduating from the University of Nashville, Amelia Terrett became involved in the woman suffrage movement in Tennessee. On February 20, 1894, she helped form the Nashville Woman Suffrage Association at the home of Mrs. H.C. Gardner. At that meeting, Amelia was elected president of the organization. Unfortunately, the group was short-lived and soon dissolved. Eight months later, Amelia left Nashville for Norfolk, Virginia, where she accepted the position of teacher of latin and mathematics at the Norfolk College for Young Ladies. That venture, too, was short-lived, and Amelia moved to Montevello, Alabama in 1902 where she taught pedagogy and mental and moral philosophy at the Alabama Girls' Industrial School (University of Montevello). She remained there for only two years and then moved back to Nashville. She took the position of Head of Departments of Mathematics and Pedagogy at her alma mater, the University of Nashville.

In 1911, Amelia Terrett became an initial member of Anna Dallas Dudley's Nashville Equal Suffrage League and continued her advocacy for a woman's right to vote. Just as her award-winning essay was titled, she used the newspaper as an avenue to speak with and educate the public on the issue. One journalist described her as a "bright, young, zealous advocate of women's emancipation" who "wields a ready pen on her behalf." She often wrote articles for The Tennessean under the column of "Suffrage Salmagundi," and her topics dealt with politics, leadership, and the "Golden Rule" of morality. In addition to her writings, Amelia opened her home for meetings and discussions with the help of her mother, who was known as "one of the oldest suffragists in Tennessee." The Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association and the Nashville Political Study Club held their meetings at her home to discuss suffrage and other issues pertaining to women's rights.

Towards the beginning of 1920, as the suffrage movement was gaining more ground in Tennessee politics, Amelia Terrett became extremely ill, and on March 4, 1920, she passed away of lobar pneumonia, only five months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She was buried in a family graveyard in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sources: Tennessee, Death Records, 1908-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011

George Peabody College for Teachers, Catalogue of the University of Nashville, Peabody Normal College for the Year 1890-1891. Nashville, Tenn., 1890-1891

George Peabody College for Teachers, Catalogue of the University of Nashville, Peabody Normal College for the Year 1892-1893. Nashville, Tenn., 1892-1893

"Organization in the South," The Woman's Column, Boston, Mass., 6 April 1894

"Personal," The Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn., 6 October 1894

Alabama Girls' Industrial School. Eighth Annual Catalogue of the Alabama Girls' Industrial School of Alabama, Brown Printing Co.: Montevallo, AL, 1903-1904

Southern Educational Association, Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the 1st-25th Annual Meeting of the Southern Educational Association. Nashville, Tenn., 1905

"Suffrage Salmagundi," The Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn., 1917

"Reception for Visiting Suffragists," The Tennessean., Nashville, Tenn., 1917

Ida Husted Harper, et al., ed., The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 [LINK] to Tennessee report

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