Lizzie Crozier French honored as Knoxville women’s rights trailblazer

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A woman who has made her mark in history and happens to be a Knoxville native was honored Saturday with her own interpretive marker.

Lizzie Crozier French’s legacy is still being honored 95 years after her death.

Women’s rights activist and social reformer are just some of the words people will use to describe Lizzie Crozier French, others might just call her a trailblazer.

“She was born in 1851 at a time of great unrest in her native south,” said Wanda Sobieski the founder and president of the Suffrage Coalition.

At a time when many were fighting for freedoms, French became a voice for women’s rights.

“She fought for coeducation at the University of Tennessee,” Sobieski continued on in her speech.

As a Knoxville native, French made significant contributions in helping to make the city into what it is today.

“She helped to start Knoxville’s first hospital and first kindergarten,” said Holly Matthews with the Daughters of the American Revolution. “So, our community owes her really such a debt.”

In 1890 French was the first woman to address the Knoxville City Council and in 1923 she became the first woman to seek election to that same council.

French was one of the primary leaders in the push for women’s rights in Tennessee and helped the state become the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

“Lizzie Crozier French made significant contributions to the suffrage movement at the local state and national level and should be honored and remembered for those contributions,” said the City of Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie in a proclamation.

Sobieski said, “her message that she would leave, I think, if she were here today is simply to say, ‘it’s not for other people to tell where a woman’s place is. A woman’s place is where she’s needed.’ Period.”

Now, people will be able to walk through the historic Old Gray Cemetery, read about French’s contributions to Knoxville and her fight for women’s rights.

Learning about this Knoxville native may even inspire you to blaze your own trail explained Sobieski,

“I would say there’s a little bit of Lizzie in all of us.”

Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie presented a proclamation in honor of Women’s Equality Day, which will be celebrated every year on August 26.

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