The first public call for women to vote came in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Not only unable to vote, women at that time had no right to their children (husbands could give them away), married women could not own property, they had no right to their own wages, and were generally, as far as the law was concerned, invisible.
After the Seneca Falls convention, decades of ceaseless effort went largely unrewarded until Congress finally passed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in 1919. Ratification by thirty-six states was required to make it law. By the summer of 1920, thirty-five states had ratified, but unexpected losses in northern states made its future uncertain. The south was said to be "solidly anti-suffrage."
In August of 1920 in a tumultuous special session of the legislature, Tennessee took up the question. Tempers flared and pressure from outsiders was almost unbearable. But in the end a twenty-four year old legislator from East Tennessee, Harry Burn, surprised the world with a last minute switch of his vote from "anti" to in favor of ratification. That set off a firestorm. The deciding factor for Harry Burn was a letter from his mother, Febb Burn, who urged him to be a "good boy" and vote for suffrage.
The seventy-two years of enormous sacrifices finally paid off. The stories of the special courage of southern women who labored so long in a largely hostile environment deserve to be preserved and honored.
Working diligently to ensure that the inspiring history of Tennessee's role in the Woman Suffrage victory is never forgotten.
If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation, you may do so at: https://etf.givingfuel.com/easttennesseefoundation
by choosing Suffrage Coalition Fund in the drop-down menu
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Become an individual member by signing up and contributing y
To honor and preserve the history of the woman suffrage movement, we have:
- Created and installed the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Memorial on Market Square, in Knoxville, TN
- Raised funds to have Harry Burn's suffrage papers and Lizzie Crozier French's s