Honoring the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage on Election Day

Aubrey's Women's Suffrage Display 2014

If you have not already realized it, today is election day! The Katharine Brush Library is paying tribute this month to the people who fought so hard to gain the right for women to vote in this country. Our second floor book display theme makes reference to the “War of the Roses” and the wearing of yellow roses in support of women’s suffrage. If you don’t already know the story, this is a reference to the final push to get 36 states to ratify the nineteenth amendment, thereby adding the amendment to the U.S. Constitution and granting all women in the United States the right to vote during elections. In August of 1920, Tennessee became the final battleground for suffragists, who wore yellow roses in support of their cause, and anti-suffragists, who wore red roses in disapproval of women’s suffrage. On August 18th, a vote was scheduled in the state legislature. Based on the roses the representatives wore on their lapels — 47 yellow and 49 red, it was believed that the amendment would not be ratified. In the first roll call, however, Representative Banks Turner changed his red rose vote to one in support of women’s suffrage, leaving the room deadlocked at 48 in favor of women’s suffrage and 48 against. The room remained deadlocked during a second roll call and a third had to be taken. During this third count, Representative Henry Burns, the youngest member of the legislature, changed his vote against women’s suffrage to one in support of the amendment. The room erupted into chaos, and Henry Burns had to climb out of a third floor window to escape from an angry mob of men who were against women’s suffrage. As the story goes, when asked why he changed his mind, Henry Burns said a telegram from his mother, urging him to “do the right thing” and give women the right to vote, caused him to rethink his vote. As you consider the issues at hand in this (or any) election, remember that your right to vote has not always been guaranteed or protected and, in many cases, is a right that was earned only after a long battle to secure it.


Aubrey's Women's Suffrage Display Close Up


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