Tennesee Woman Suffrage

Celebrating One Hundred Years

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the ratification resolution for the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, giving the amendment the 36th — and final — state necessary for ratification.

On August 26, 1920, all women gained the right to vote, thanks to the actions of the Volunteer State.

Summary of Woman Suffrage in Tennesee

Women worked for decades to win the vote. It began with the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848. By the early 1900s women's suffrage had expanded into an energetic movement. By June of 1919 the 19th Amendment passed the US House and Senate. From there state legislatures began taking up ratification setting off a wildfire of activity by American women.

By July of 1920, 35 of the 36 states needed for ratification had approved the amendment. Suffragists saw Tennessee as their last, best hope to make the perfect 36th. On August 9th Governor Albert H. Roberts called a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to consider the issue. Both pro and anti-suffragists from across the nation descended upon Nashville. After the resolution easily passed in the Tennessee State Senate both sides lobbied furiously to secure the votes in the House of Representatives.

On August 18th, 1920 suffragists and anti-suffragists packed the House chamber. Suffragists wore yellow roses and anti-suffragists wore red roses signaling their stances in the pivotal vote. The atmosphere tensed as the war of the roses commenced. As the roll call began and votes were tallied the youngest member of the House, a 24 year old Niota man named Harry Burn, faced a dilemma. He had a letter in his coat pocket from his mother that read, "Hurrah and vote for suffrage," asking her son to change his anti-suffrage stance. Burn, sporting a red rose shocked the chamber by claiming aye for the amendment. Breaking a tie vote and changing the course of our nation's history forever.

On August 24th, 1920 Governor Roberts certified Tennessee's ratification of the 19th Amendment and two days later US Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby officially declared its ratification to the Constitution. Tennessee provided the 36th and final state needed to ratify this landmark amendment to the US Constitution, adding to our state's rich history and earning the slogan America at Its Best. Tennessee had given 27 million women the right to vote.


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