Today’s Talk Topic: What Harry Did for Us

Voting-Woman-281x300With gratitude we look back today on what Harry Burn did for us women 94 years ago—because, as he later explained, “I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow.”

Harry was a 24-year-old member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, which was heatedly debating the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which proposed to give women the vote. Harry sported a red-rose boutonniere, signifying his opposition to the bill. The State Senate had passed the bill, but the House members reached a 48-to-48 deadlock. On August 18, 1920, When the Speaker moved to table the issue until the next legislative session—which would almost certainly assure its defeat—Harry Burn thought about the letter that he carried in his pocket. “Dear Son,” his mother had written. “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt . . . Be a good boy. ”

Although he had never expected to have to cast the tie-breaking vote, when the clerk called his name, Harry honored his mother by voting “aye” for women’s suffrage, thus guaranteeing that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by . . . any State on account of sex.”

Writes Jennie Cohen on the site History in the Headlines,

He also invoked the fury of his red rose-carrying peers while presumably avoiding that of his mother—which may very well have been the more daunting of the two.

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