100 years ago today, American women won the right to vote.

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee House had already voted two times and were deadlocked in a tie for the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

Harry Burn, the 24-year old representative from East Tennessee, could smell the sweet fragrance of his anti-suffrage red rose on his lapel. He held in his slightly damp hand and read again his mother’s note, as the Speaker droned on calling the roll for their third vote on ratification. His mother’s note stated in part, “…be a good boy and help Mrs. (Carrie Chapman) Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.” He decided then to heed his mother’s advice.

As they called his name, he softly and quickly said “aye”, and started moving to the second floor of the Chamber, away from the inevitable backlash roar of the Tennessee House chamber crowded with representatives, suffragists, and anti-activists.

With Burn’s single syllable vote, Tennessee became the 36th U. S. state to ratify the 19th amendment, ending the half century of “pauseless campaign for U. S. women’s suffrage.” The next day he explained to his fellow legislators that he knew that “…a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow.”

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was added to the U. S. Constitution. August 26th later became known as “Women’s Equality Day”.

1920 American suffragists began immediately to register as many women to vote as possible. They had just nine weeks until the 1920 General Election. Ultimately, one third of United States’ eligible women voters turned out for the 1920 election—a mere 10 million—were finally able to cast a vote to elect leaders of their own country. With the 1920 Women’s Vote, the era of women voters working through the political process had begun.

One hundred years later, women voters are a formidable force in our nation’s political life.

Deborah Baker-Rian

Democratic Women’s Club of Okaloosa County, Florida

August 14, 2020