YIG Supreme Court: Justice Frank F. Drowota, III 2020 Essay Contest


The Justice Frank F. Drowota, III Essay Contest is sponsored by the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society. The scholarship winners will be announced at YIG Volunteer. The due date is March 23, 2020.

Background Information on the retirement of Justice Frank F. Drowota, III

The legacy of Justice Frank F. Drowota, III

For Justice Frank Drowota, involvement in the YMCA was a family affair that began before he was ever born. Drowota often credited the YMCA in South Carolina with changing the course of his father’s life in the 1920s by inspiring him to become a minister. Years later, when the family relocated to Nashville to start a church, one of the first things they did was join the Y, where a young Frank Drowota later learned to swim and where he continued to be a member into adulthood as he and Claire raised children of their own, who played youth sports at the Y.

In 1991, Drowota joined the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s Board of Directors, and so began decades of service as a volunteer leader. His contributions to the nonprofit organization are countless, though chief among them was his commitment to developing a permanent YMCA day and resident camp in Middle Tennessee. That dream became a reality with the construction of the YMCA’s Joe C. Davis Outdoor Center, home of Camp Widjiwagan—a camp Drowota’s grandchildren got to enjoy and that continues to provide magical experiences to thousands of children each year.

Drowota went on to become Board Chair for the YMCA, remained a staunch supporter of our Youth in Government program and continued to serve as a dedicated volunteer leader until his death. It is fitting we honor his memory through the naming of our Supreme Court Component and the introduction of this essay contest.

Essay Prompt


The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in August 1920. Tennessee played a pivotal part in that event.

Your assignment is to write an essay about Tennessee’s role in the ratification, ensuring that all women citizens of the United States were entitled to vote in all elections.

The full text of the Amendment is as follows:

  • The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    Topics to discuss:

    Why did women not already have the right to vote under the United States Constitution as it existed before the 19th Amendment was ratified?

    Did any women in the United States have the right to vote in any elections before the Amendment was ratified? If so, discuss generally where, when, and in what kinds of elections they could vote.

    Discuss briefly how the universal right of women to vote was to be accomplished. Include a short description of the historical background in the U. S., and in Congress, which led to the battle in Tennessee. What events and movements led to the introduction of the Amendment in Congress? What happened in Congress?

    Once Congress approved the Amendment, what needed to happen in order for it to become part of the Constitution?

    Identify some of the national leaders who led the fight for ratification. What were some of their arguments in favor of the right to vote? Identify the leaders against ratification and discuss their arguments as to why women should not have the right to vote.

    What was the role of African American women in the fight for ratification?

    Discuss the role of Tennessee in the struggle for ratification. Set the stage by examining what was going on in Nashville at the time the Legislature was in session, and describe the leaders of the movement in Tennessee both in support of and in opposition to ratification.

    Describe what happened in the Tennessee Legislature, illustrating the final outcome, the margin of victory, who cast the final vote, and how it was accomplished.

    Was the decision by the Tennessee Legislature the last word? What happened after Tennessee’s ratification?

    Analyze the Tennessee Supreme Court’s case of Clements v. Roberts, 144 Tenn. 129, 230 S. W. 2d. (This case is attached and marked as Case 1, “the Original Case,” in your materials). Discuss in your analysis why Article 2, § 32 of the Tennessee Constitution was important in the appeal of the Legislature’s final vote ratifying the Amendment. (Don’t be confused by the unfamiliar terms “Certiorari” and “Supersedeas” in the opinion and the Court’s lengthy discussion of them. They are merely the writs (or judicial commands) used to bring the case up for review by the Supreme Court).

    What was the basis of the Complainants’ argument in the Chancery Court to support their request to throw out the Legislature’s decision to ratify the Amendment and grant women the right to vote in all elections? What did the Chancery Court do? What was the Supreme Court’s decision, and what was the basis for the Supreme Court’s action?

    What was the issue in the Petition to Rehear (marked as Case 2, “Petition to Rehear,” in your materials). Discuss how the Tennessee Supreme Court decided that issue, and outline the final decision.

    What was the result of the Supreme Court’s decision that it could not interfere with the legislative or the executive branches of the Government in this case? Did the decision of the Court end the matter on the question of ratification giving women the right to vote in all elections nationwide?

    Do you think that the Supreme Court’s decisions were examples of judicial restraint? Judicial activism? Neither? Looking back, now that 100 years have passed since these Supreme Court cases were issued, do you agree with the Court? Do you think it would hold the same way today?


    Primary Case Documents

    There are numerous reference articles online about the passage of the 19th Amendment that can be found via general web searches; for example, type in “women’s suffrage,” “woman suffrage,” or “passage of the 19th Amendment in Tennessee”; also search, by name, any of the leaders of the suffrage movement, or those in opposition.

    Also, consider the following, but do not feel that you are limited to these:















    Another excellent source is The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, by Elaine Weiss, published in 2018. This book gives a thrilling account of the effort to obtain ratification in the Tennessee Legislature and discusses all the leaders involved in the Tennessee movement.

    Essay Guidelines

    Maximum Length: 2,000 words. You are not required to use this number - this length is optional.

    Paper: 8-1/2” x 11” letter size paper

    Font: Times New Roman 12-point; footnotes (if any) 10-point

    Spacing: Double spaced; footnotes (if any) single spaced

    Margins: 1 in. top and sides; ½ in. bottom; right margins justified

    Page Numbers: Centered, bottom of page

    Quotations: Double indent and single space quotations over 50 words


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