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"Phenomenal Women Stand Strong" by Linda Rugina / Photo from the artist

Photo Gallery

'Strong Women' art

Art from a spring show at North River Civic Center will get a brief but meaningful second act when the League of Women Voters Chattanooga presents a fundraiser for its upcoming centennial.

"Strong Women," which enjoyed a two-month run at the Hixson community center, will provide the backdrop for "an evening of gourmet food, jazz, art and a little bit of history," to be held Wednesday in a private event space at Feed Company Table & Tavern. The event will begin the league's celebration of the 2020 centennial of the founding of the League of Women Voters and the vote for women. It is meant "to focus on the power of women — and their men" and examine some of the contributions made in the past 99 years since the vote for women and the league came into being.

The national League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held just six months before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.

In its early days, the league was seen as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their responsibilities as voters and encourage them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy, according to an online history.

If you go

* What: Strong Women: An Evening of Gourmet Food, Jazz, Art and a Little Bit of History

* When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18

* Where: The Feed Company Table & Tavern, 201 W. Main St. (in private event space off Williams Street)

* Admission: $50 (cash bar)

* Tickets: www.eventbrite.com

Linda Rugina, director of the North River Civic Center, says because Wednesday's event is a fundraiser, she and league representative Kerry Lansford chose only artwork that is for sale. Many of the artists' subjects were family members, "and they didn't want to part with those pieces."

She believes the artwork is the perfect pairing for the league's initiatives. "What they're doing is right in line with the 'Strong Women' exhibit," she says. The show was meant to "honor the [women] who have been influential or an inspiration" to the artists.

She says 25% of sales will go to the league.

Executive chef Charlie Loomis will prepare a specially crafted dinner for the fundraiser, and Lee University jazz pianist Michelle Pranoto will provide musical accompaniment during the evening.

A highlight of the event is expected to be a living-history portrayal of Chattanooga suffragist Abby Crawford Milton (1881-1991) by Chattanooga and Hamilton County historian Linda Moss Mines.

Milton's efforts helped secure the vote for women and set the stage for Tennessee's deciding vote for suffrage. Her leadership was manifest before, during and after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, as she was the last president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association and the first president of the Tennessee League of Women Voters.

Moss Mines says, as Milton, she "simply speaks about her life and why she is impassioned about equal rights and why she's willing to be politically involved when the majority of women simply were not."

"She's just a great touchstone for women," says Moss Mines. "She's not abrasive, but you'll also find her doggedly stubborn. She would just keep going back and going back and going back to legislators, and yet she was that gracious woman, always with that Southern 'bless your heart' sort of stuff, but with that attorney's quick mind. When they would have points, she would counter them, but in such a calm and soft-spoken way that it made it difficult for them to turn her away."

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.

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