Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Miriam Cecelia Tillman Drennen, 1870-1960
By Dr. Jami Forrester, Associate Professor, NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, Arkansas
Vice Chairman, Arkansas State Suffrage Association; First Vice President, Arkansas Equal Suffrage Central Committee; District Chairman of Garland County Equal Suffrage Central Committee; Equal Suffrage Association of Hot Springs, Arkansas; Chairman of the 6 th Congressional District Liberty Bonds; Chairman of 8th District Women's Division of Fourth Liberty Loan Drive; Organized Hot Springs League of Women Voters; Founder and President of the Arkansas Medical Society Auxillary; Graduate of State Normal School of Athens; Founder and Honorary Member of Students' Club of Columbus, Georgia; Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs; Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs; President, First Methodist Society of Christian Service, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Miriam Cecelia Ryan Tillman Drennen was born in 1870 in Columbus, Georgia, to James Ryan and Martha Arabella Boland. After the death of her mother in 1874, Miriam ("Minnie") was adopted by Colonel William Litteton Tillman and Hattie Clements Tillman, a prominent Columbus family. The formal education and European travels provided by Colonel Tillman prepared her for the many roles she held later as a civic leader, suffragist, and philanthropist. She married Dr. Charles Travis Drennen, Jr. in June of 1898 and moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to live at Drennen Court for over thirty years. Dr. C. Travis Drennen practiced medicine in Hot Springs from 1894 to 1920. Miriam remained close to her biological sister, Annie Ryan Marks, and Annie's children, including a niece, Mariam Cecelia Ryan. After Dr. Drennen's death in 1932, Miriam moved to Apalachicola, Florida, the home of her sister. She traveled to Hot Springs yearly until her death in 1960.
Miriam Drennen was an avid supporter of public education for children. She was the founder of the Students' Club of Columbus in 1895 with the goal of "Education for Georgia, and service to Home, State, and Nation." This organization took up literary work, placed thousands of books in schools, and built more than 20 libraries in Muscogee County by 1905. Miriam continued her philanthropy in Arkansas through her work as President of the First Methodist Society of Christian Service.
By 1912 Miriam Drennen was extremely active and well-known in the fight for suffrage. She served as District Chairman of Garland County Equal Suffrage Central Committee and was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage Association of Hot Springs. Between 1910 and 1919, a number of articles appear in newspapers in both Arkansas and Georgia about her suffrage work. The publisher of The Hot Springs New Era and member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, John A. Riggs, thought very highly of Miriam Drennen. In February 1917, after an Equal Suffrage Association meeting in Hot Springs, The Hot Springs New Era article stated, "Mrs. C. Travis Drennen brought out expressions from many. Drennen has caught the largest vision of the possibilities of equal suffrage and those who heard her last night were inspired by the lofty ideal she set for the cause." Representative Riggs had proposed that women be given the right to vote in primary elections with the Primary Suffrage Bill, HB 340 in January of 1917. Governor Brough signed the bill and Arkansas became the first southern state to recognize suffrage for women.
Described as "one of Hot Springs' most spirited and progressive women,"Miriam was known for her tenacity. She traveled in Arkansas, her home state of Georgia, and to New York to work with the suffrage movement from 1914-1919. Miriam and many other women attended the Arkansas Legislative session when Arkansas officially ratified the Federal Suffrage Amendment. Miriam Drennen served as the "toast mistress" during the jubilee luncheon celebrating Arkansas's ratification of the 19th Amendment on December 4, 1919 in Little Rock at the final annual meeting of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association. The Association later merged with The League of Women Voters.
Miriam was also a great supporter of the United States during World War I. In 1918, along with hundreds of other Arkansas women, she worked to raise bond money for the war. She served as Chairman of the 6thCongressional District Liberty Bonds committee and Chairman of 8th District Women's Division of Fourth Liberty Loan Drive.
Both Dr. Charles Travis and Miriam Drennen were key players in the establishment of a planning commission for the city of Hot Springs with the goal of "Making Hot Springs the Cleanest City." Miriam's civic work included working for the conservation of health, youth, good roads and education. Known for her orations and ability to charm her audiences, Miriam Drennen's frequent appearances and speeches at political, social, and religious events are well documented from 1913 until her death in 1960. The Hot Springs New Era in 1920 said of her speech about the importance of civic work, "a response by the talented, clever, and accomplished Mrs. C. Travis Drennen, in which she captured completely the entire company, and brought great honor and acclaim to herself for her keen grasp of events, her clear and forceful oratory, her refreshing wit and superb ability...it may be safely asserted that the inspiration she gave to these representative men of Hot Springs will spur them to renewed and sustained efforts for the good of the city and community." She and her husband are both buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hot Springs.
Brandon, Elizabeth Riggs. "John Andrew Riggs." Encyclopedia of Arkansas. 12 01, 2016. https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/john-andrew-riggs-5509/ (accessed October 25, 2019).
Centennial History of Arkansas. Hot Springs, AR: J.S. Clark Publishing Company, 1922.
Cotham, Calvin T. "Those Wood Endorsements." The Hot Springs New Era, May 20, 1918: 3.
Daily Arkansas Gazette. "State Federation Adopts New FInancial Policy: Convention of Women's Club Endorses League of Nations and Pledges Support to State Campaign Against Tuberculosis." November 16, 1919: 50.
Irby, Brian. Voting in Primary Elections. n.d. https://ualrexhibits.org/suffrage/the-arkansas-suffrage-movement-the-primary-vote/.
Panama City News Herald.August 15, 1950: 3.
Pultrow, Mary. "Christian Educators of the 20th Century: Miriam Marks." Biola University. n.d. https://www.biola.edu/talbot/ce20/database/miriam-marks (accessed December 15, 2018).
The Sentinel-Record. "Funeral Today for Mrs. Drennen." November 15, 1960.
Tallahassee Democrat.August 12, 1953: 2.
Tallahassee Democrat. "Mrs. Charles T Drennen D." November 15, 1960: 2.
Tallahassee Democrat. "Return from Arkansas." December 31, 1939: 2.
Tallahassee. "Social ." April 15, 1958: 2.
The Arkansas Gazette. "Women Suffrage Leader is Coming." November 29, 1919: 8.
The Atlanta Constitution. "Federation of Women's Clubs." November 11, 1898: 6.
The Atlanta Constitution. "Wedding in Columbus." June 5, 1898: 12.
The Atlanta Constitution. "What Some Georgia CLubs Are Doing." April 11, 1903: 8.
The Birmingham News. "Visiting Friend." December 11, 1946: 16.
The Federal Reporter. Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of Appeals, St. Paul: West Publishing Company, October-November 1912.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Hot Springs' Young Women's Christian Association." February 26, 1920: 1.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Make Hot Springs the Cleanest City." April 22, 1920: 8.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Riggs Toasted as the Next Governor: Local Suffrage Organization Heartily Applauds." September 8, 1919: 1.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Splended Speech by Mrs. Drennen." April 2, 1918: 5.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Suffrage Meeting Largely Attended." May 6, 1918: 1.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Suffrage Meeting Was Enthusiastic." February 17, 1917: 1.
The Hot Springs New Era. "To Bring Talent Here This Winter." September 26, 1919: 3.
The Hot Springs New Era. "Women to Attend Legislative Session." July 19, 1919: 5.