Ladies dressed in flowing dresses and extravagant hats carried signs and marched down Grove Street in downtown Loudon on Oct. 15 to reenact what life was like for women in the 1920s.
The march, which simulated a historical women’s suffrage protest, started at the fountain and ended at the Historic Loudon Theatre, where members of the General William Lenoir chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution celebrated the group’s 94th anniversary with a high tea and ceremony.
“We were reenacting a women’s suffrage march because of the 100th anniversary of suffrage, and so we’re going to reenact to give a small idea of what it would be like,” Renee Hamilton, chapter regent, said. “It was fun, it really was. We had been planning this for several months and tried to get our outfits together. It was fun to try and find attire that would be a period-correct outfit, and I think one of the best parts about it was everybody trying to come together to make this happen. There was a lot of behind the scenes work to get things approved. We didn’t just throw it together.”
Several participants wore small buttons that displayed photographs of historical suffragists from Loudon County.
“Quite a few of the women were from this area,” Suzy Holcomb, former chapter regent, said. “We tried to incorporate several of the different women from the area and around the country that were part of the women’s suffrage, and then they were also part of the DAR, which is kind of interesting. Two of the keynote speakers from the area, their relatives were instrumental in the suffrage, so the whole concept kind of put it all together.”
The march provided participants and guests an opportunity to learn more about the history of the women’s suffrage movement.
“I think the other thing was, too, we had the opportunity to just educate people because as time passes, we forget the kind of things our ancestors had to go through,” Hamilton said. “For me, it was getting to go back and re-read some of the things I had learned when I was younger in history classes and things, I had to go back and re-read and just kind of get a feel for what these women had gone through. They dedicated their lives to this cause for the right to vote, and I just came away from with it ... I had admired them before, but admiration increased.”
Organizers circled the date on their calendars well in advance to ensure the anniversary was truly celebrated.
“We have been growing by leaps and bounds,” Holcomb said. “Now, if I’m not mistaken, I think we’re at 150. We’ve got so many different varieties of projects going on right now, but it just happened to be that Oct. 15 was the exact date of our anniversary, so we were trying to make sure if there was a possibility of that date, that was going to be the date we were going to try and celebrate. In conjunction, it just happened to be that was the same time as the women’s suffrage, so it just worked out that the whole thing just kind of flowed at one time.”
Following the march, participants and guests filled the Historic Loudon Theatre for a tea and program headed by Hamilton and Holcomb.
“We chose to do a tea because that was something my chapter when we had kind of been polling the chapter members to see, ‘What would you guys like to do in my next term as regent for fun?’” Hamilton said. “Everybody kept saying, ‘We want to try and do a chapter tea.’ When this opportunity came along and suffrage was what we were going to be focusing on in DAR from the national level and on down, things just fell into place — the location happened. It was an opportunity to help him (Jerry Ragle) spotlight his theater.”
Holcomb believes the event was a great way to invite the community to be part of a bigger cause.
“A lot happened, and there’s a lot of neighborhood outreach that happened,” she said. “I’ll tell you, that really warmed the cockles of my heart because it looks like people are helping people, people are knowing people. It’s just one more time in my life that I’m so happy to be a part of this community that when you go and you say, ‘Can I help?’ Is somebody in need or something special is happening, you know, everybody helping one another. It was just really super nice, and nobody could be any nicer than here in Loudon.”
The chapter is expected to help with the county’s sesquicentennial celebration next year.
“We have the knowledge of doing something else,” Holcomb said. “We’re kind of proving ourselves that we can do something else, and we can do it pretty good and can organize. I understand Loudon’s coming up with a big celebration next year, and they’ve come to me and said, ‘Hey, can you help us?’ There’s a lot of things popping here.”