An Idea, a Woman, a Vote
Updated: Aug 1
August is Almost Here...
...and RosieCentral will celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment and Women’s Right to Vote all month long with:
Free Fun Downloads of Games, Puzzles, and Drawings of Original Suffrage Postcards ready for coloring
Special Discounts on Our Unique Suffrage Products (sashes, cloth suffragette ornaments, Votes for Women buttons, costume accessory kits, authentic march signs and handouts, etc.)
We hope you’ll join us for the festivities from August 1-August 31.
Today — In Anticipation of August and To Kick Off Our Celebration, We Bring You —
An Idea, a Woman, and a Vote
Not really one idea — there were a multitude of ideas from the earliest of Colonial times to provide women with their rights so that they would have some control over their lives. At that time, there were individual colonies that permitted both women and men to vote. But in 1769, there was a decision to adopt English laws that included the language:
“By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law. The very being and legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated into that of her husband under whose wing and protection she performs everything.”
And by eight years later, in 1777, all states had passed laws that took away a woman’s right to vote.
This idea of equal rights for women took a long time to gain a foothold.
Specifically, it was 71 years later when in 1848 two important events took place:
At Seneca Falls—a conference called by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, her sister Martha Wright, MaryAnn M’Clintock, and Jane Hunt—300 women and men signed the Declaration of Sentiments, a plea for the end of discrimination against women that included voting rights for women.
New York passed the Married Woman’s Property Act. For the first time, a woman wasn't automatically liable for her husband’s debts; she could enter contracts on her own; she could collect rents or receive an inheritance in her own right; she could file a lawsuit on her own behalf. She became for economic purposes, an individual.
Change Happens. It Just Takes a Long Time
Not really one women. There were tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of women who marched, petitioned, spoke, and championed the cause of suffrage for women over the decades.
But for right now, I’ll just mention Susan B. Anthony.
Susan B. Anthony was not part of the Seneca Falls conference. At that time, she was active in the temperance movement. But then she was denied the right to speak at a temperance conference — because she was a woman. At that moment she realized the need to work for women’s rights. She wrote:
“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.”
Later, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stantion founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (1869), an organization that pursued a national solution — an amendment to the constitution.
The weekly newsletter, The Revolution, was owned by Susan B. Anthony and edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In it, they lobbied for women’s rights under the American Equal Rights Association (AERA). Its masthead read:
“Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”
A Daring Woman. Stating that the 14th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote, Susan B. Anthony cast her ballot in the 1872 presidential election. She was arrested and the judge in the case fined her $100.
She refused to pay.
Words of Inspiration from Susan B. Anthony!
Want inspiration from Susan B. Anthony? Consider these quotes:
“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
“Independence is happiness.”
“Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”
And here's my personal favorite Susan B. Anthony quote:
“No man is good enough to govern any woman without her consent.”
Not really one vote. There were many votes taken before the 19th Amendment was ratified and signed into law. But I want to share the famous story of the final, critical vote made by Harry T. Burn.
But first, let me set the stage.
In 1919, there were 48 states and to be ratified by 3/4 of these states, 36 were needed. The amendment had been ratified in 35 states by August of 1920, but 1 was still missing.
There were only five available states to potentially ratify the 19th amendment.
had already rejected the amendment.
Of the remaining five states,
North Carolina, and
had already determined that they would not vote on the resolution in 1920.
But the Tennessee legislature decided it would tackle the ratification vote in a special session on August 18. The Senate voted in favor of ratification. Now it was up to the House.
That’s when a major drama took place. Imagine the scene at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. The Suffragettes (called Suffs) wearing yellow roses on their clothes and the anti-suffragettes (called Antis) wearing red roses. Known as the War of the Roses, both groups were busy lobbying members of the House, and once the vote intention was stated, the congressman (yes, they were all men) was handed the appropriate color rose.
A scan of the lobby and then the House looked like there were more reds than yellows. The 24 year old legislator, Harry T. Burn, was one of those wearing a red rose in his lapel. He was up for re-election and knew his constituents were against women’s right to vote.
The House was called into session to vote not on the amendment but on a motion to table or delay any vote on the ratification. Burn, with many others voted “aye” to delay any vote until the next legislative session. It looked like the vote on the amendment would not take place.
But then Representative Banks Turner changed his vote from "aye" to "nay", resulting in a tie vote. The speaker of the house wanted to end this once and for all. He called for an immediate vote on the ratification.
The suffragists knew they were one vote short. But what happened next brought the drama to a peak and an unexpected conclusion.
The Surprise of Harry T. Burn
When Harry Burn’s name, early in the roll was called, he voted “aye” in favor of ratification. Then Banks Turner, later in the roll, also voted “aye” giving the Suffragettes their 36th state ratification and the Nineteenth Amendment.
And so the 70 year fight for women’s suffrage finally ended.
That’s a pretty good story, but wait -- it’s the reason for the Burn’s vote that is so special.
When Harry T. Burn sat in the House contemplating his vote on ratification, he had his mother’s letter deep in his pocket. She had written:
“Dear Son… Hurrah and vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt…I’ve been watching to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet…Don’t forget to be a good boy…”
So following his mother’s advice he changed his vote to favor suffrage. Later, when asked about his vote, he said:
“I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification. And I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery was mine.”
And is this the end of the story?
Not exactly. The anti-suffragists didn't take the defeat easily. They wanted to overturn the vote. They had the governor of Louisiana’s wife pressure Febb E. Burn, Harry’s mother, to recant the letter and say it was a fraud.
She refused to do so.
And so the 36th state ratification vote was sent to the US Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, who certified the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920. And now we celebrate women's suffrage on both August 18 and August 26.
Thus Ends our Story of An Idea, A Woman, and a Vote
But it shouldn't be the end for you. Women have the right to vote and we urge you to vote in the upcoming election. The right to vote was a hard won victory and we should not be casual or cavalier with it.
In Anticipation of August...
...And in anticipation of all the RosieCentral blogs, inspirational quotes, special events, free downloads, and suffrage product discounts during the month of August...
USE COUPON CODE: VOTE15
We based our design on an analysis of photographs from the early 1900s.
Wear the tri-colored sash, tri-colored rosette, and gold VOTES FOR WOMEN button for a celebration, when you host a suffrage party, when you need a super cool Halloween costume, or when you vote. It even makes a great gift for your BFF or sibling.
VOTES FOR WOMEN
We hope you'll come back next week when we fully embark on our
August Fun Fest.