On the eve of August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
It all came down to one man, 24-year-old state legislator Harry Burn. On the morning of August 18, 1920, Mr. Burn, who had been against ratification, received a letter from his mother which stated:
Hurray and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt. I noticed Chandlers’ speech, it was very bitter. I’ve been waiting to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet…. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt with her “Rats.” Is she the one that put rat in ratification, Ha! No more from mama this time.
With lots of love,
As the roll call neared his name, he tightly held the letter from his mother in his hand.
The assembly clerk called his name. "Mr. Burn."
And then, it was done! The struggle was over and American women had the right to vote, and with it full citizenship. The laborious work of thousands of women, and men, had finally been rewarded.
So let’s celebrate the strong, loving mother from Tennessee, Phoebe Ensminger Burn, who raised her son to respect women and their constitutional rights.
© A suffrage parade in New York City in 1912. (Photo: Library of Congress)