A 'Good Boy' Tennessee Lawmaker and His Mother Make Voting History.

AuthorLays, Julie
PositionState representative Harry Burn

Every so often a national history-making decision comes down to a single state legislative vote. That's what happened in ratifying the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. After Congress passed the amendment in 1919 it had to be ratified by at least 36 states. In 1920, Tennessee became that deciding 36th state, but not without some drama.

The story goes like this, according to Jennie Cohen with History.com.

The Tennessee Senate passed the amendment easily, but it stalled in the House. Thousands of pro- and anti-suffrage activists filled Nashville to voice their opinions. Tension was high, and debates were fierce.

Many lawmakers chose to show which side they were on by the color of the rose in their lapel. Red signified they were against giving women the right to vote. Yellow reflected support. Representative Harry Burn, who at 24 was one of the youngest legislators, wore a red rose. After a motion to table the amendment was defeated in a 48-48 tie, the speaker called for a ratification vote on Aug. 18,1920. With an evenly divided House, it looked like Tennessee would not become the final state needed to ratify the amendment.

Except that young Burn had received a note from his mother that morning that proved providential. Phoebe "Febb" Ensminger Burn, according to Cohen, had...

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