Section 14: One Letter, One Vote

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee’s final ratification vote appeared also to be a tie, but as the roll call began, another representative was reconsidering how he would respond. Harry T. Burn of McMinn County had in his possession a letter from Febb E. Burn, his mother, encouraging him to vote in favor of woman suffrage. 

…have to stay at home the rest of the summer. The Rockwood crowd is going to White Cliff Labor day. Will you be home by then. Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt. I noticed Chandlers speech, it was very bitter. I’ve been watching to see how you stand but have not seen anything yet.

Write mother every time you have a chance for I am always looking for a letter when you are away. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. “Thomas Catt” with her “Rats.” Is she the one that put rat in ratification. Ha. No more from mama this time. With lots of love.


Conflicted by his duty to represent his constituents and his own beliefs, Burn resolved that, if he must be the deciding vote, he would vote in favor of woman suffrage. As the men voted in alphabetical order, it was apparent early on that Burn had cast the swing vote needed to ratify the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment.” 

I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification

Rep. Harry T. Burn

McMinn County, on his unexpected decision to support the Nineteenth Amendment

As soon as Burn uttered his “aye,” cheers were heard from the balcony. At the conclusion of the session, Turner and Burn had turned the tide in favor of the suffragists. Tennessee provided the 36th and final state needed to ratify the Constitutional amendment. Supporters of woman suffrage in Tennessee had no way of knowing that their efforts would be critical to the national success of the movement.

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee General Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment; on August 24, Governor Roberts certified Tennessee’s vote; and on August 26, the 19th Amendment was added to the US Constitution.

Tennessee Woman Suffrage Trivia:

True or False–The 19th Amendment was the last amendment to the US Constitution to deal with voting rights.

Answer: False. Amendments 23, 24, and 26 also protect voting rights