Saturday, August 15, 2020

Two hundred years ago this month

Harry Burn was the youngest member of the Tennessee General Assembly when he was elected to represent McMinn County at age twenty-two. He is best remembered for action taken to ratify the 19th Amendment during his first term in the legislature, giving women the right to vote. His vote broke the tie in the legislature, causing Tennessee to pass the Amendment. Since Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the Amendment, it became the law of the land.

Burn credits his mother with changing his vote to support women's right to vote. She wrote him a 7-page letter advising him to support the Amendment. Opponents quickly attacked his honor and integrity, so he inserted this personal statement in the House Journal. He explained that he decided to support women's rights in part because "I knew that a mother's advice is always safest for a boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification."

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