Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Fannie (Mrs. James B.) Ezzell, 1872-1955
By Lauren Fryer, student, Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, AR
Tennessee Democratic National Committeewoman and activist in the Suffrage movement
Born Fannie Lemira Moran on October 23, 1872, Mrs. James B. Ezzell spent her formative years in Dresden, Tennessee. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Moran, were respected community members who participated in local politics. As a child, Ezzell attended Mrs. Clark's School in Nashville where she received top marks and found a place on the honor roll each year. She studied history and English, as well as additional enrichment subjects such as vocal music. Following graduation in 1889, Ezzell continued her studies at the Columbia Institute in Columbia, Tennessee. She married James B. Ezzell and their union resulted in two children.
Ezzell followed in her parents' footsteps by involving herself in community politics from an early age; she served on multiple committees at the local and county levels. Most notably, Ezzell held the office of treasurer in 1896 for a community organization dedicated to seeing Davidson County, Tennessee represented in the Woman's Building at the state centennial convention. Ezzell and her fellow officers worked to coordinate efforts of thirteen committees within the county to create an exhibit that displayed local women's contributions to society. After marriage, Ezzell continued her work as a community activist and organizer and women's rights supporter. Ezzell participated in the activities of numerous clubs and charitable organizations, such as the Ladies Hermitage Association, the Centennial Club, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Belmont Magazine Club. She made regular appearances in the newspaper as an attendee at various high-profile luncheons. For a time Ezzell was a society pages editor for the Nashville Banner, a politically independent daily newspaper.
In 1914, Ezzell joined the Nashville Equal Suffrage League; her colleagues elected her to attend the state convention in Knoxville. She spoke at several political meetings in Nashville. In 1917, Ezzell was nominated as a state legislative chairman for NAWSA in Tennessee and served as a vice-chairman of Tennessee's 100-woman Democratic Ratification Committee, headquartered at the Hotel Hermitage in Nashville, in 1920. She served as a director of a congressional campaign for the Democratic Party in Tennessee in 1922. Recognized by The Tennessean in 1922, Ezzell was commended for her work as “an ardent and persistent fighter for woman suffrage.” The story cited her importance as “a factor in bringing about ratification [of the suffrage amendment] by the Tennessee Legislature.”
Ezzell continued her political activism on behalf of women, the state of Tennessee, and the Democratic Party. After a runoff in 1924, Ezzell became Tennessee's first Democratic national committeewoman. In 1925, when a child labor bill struggled in the United States Senate, Ezzell publicly admonished the legislative body. In an interview with The Tennessean, Ezzell claimed that Tennessee “has good child labor laws but there are other states that do not,” and urged policymakers to “consider the little children.” Ezzell blamed legislators who “must be influenced by associations of money.”
Ezzell maintained her community involvement in Nashville. In 1925, Ezzell and her husband, a successful businessman and politician, dedicated time and resource to the effort in refurbishing a Nashville icon, the Parthenon, an exact replica of the Greek original. The Centennial Club, of which both were members, created subcommittees to organize the opening event, and Mrs. Ezzell served as chairmen of speakers. At the Parthenon opening, Mr. and Mrs. Ezzell acted as hosts for the evening events alongside other prominent Tennessee citizens, most notably the Governor and Mrs. Austin Peay. During the 1928 state fair, Ezzell helped organize the Home and Education building. In this role, Ezzell helped develop prizes and honors for women in activities like gardening and garment construction.
Ezzell passed away May 3, 1955 after an extended illness at the age of 82, in Monteagle, Tennessee. She is interred at the Moran family cemetery in Dresden.
“Amendment on Child Labor Fails in Senate Group.” The Tennessean. January 23, 1925.
“Closing Exercises Attended by a Fine Audience at the Watkin's Institute.” The Tennessean. June 7, 1888.
“Dahlia Show is One of the Fair's Most Interesting Features.” The Tennessean. September 19, 1918.
“Fannie Lemira Moran Ezzell” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29914363/fanny-lemira-ezzell
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage Vol. VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. Pp. 601-602, 619, 629. [LINK]
“Mrs. Fannie Ezzell Rites Will Be Today.” The Tennessean. May 5, 1955.
“Recognition.” The Tennessean. January 29, 1922.
“Seminary Debutantes.” The Tennessean, June 3, 1888.
“Society and its Interests.” The Tennessean, December 6, 1925.
“Suffrage League Elects Delegates.” The Tennessean, September 17, 1914.
Sumner, David E. “Nashville Banner.” Tennessee Encyclopedia. Tennessee Historical Society. http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/nashville-banner/
“Today's Hostesses at Parthenon.” The Tennessean. December 15, 1925.
“Weakley County Women.” The Tennessean, January 19, 1896.