You think one vote doesn’t matter? Hah!

We’re coming up on the hundredth anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, Which made it legal for women in the United States to vote.* If you hang out in Historyland, you’re going to be reading a lot in the coming year about suffragettes (or, to use the term many of them preferred, suffragists**, the fight leading up to the amendment, and the therefore what after it was passed. Some of it will be on this blog.

But with mid-term elections only a few day’s away, I think it’s important to remember right now that in the end the 19th Amendment was ratified thanks to one man’s vote.

19th amendment

In August, 1920, 35 states had ratified the amendment; 36 states were needed for it to pass. Tennessee was the only state still in the game. Proponents and opponents of the amendment gathered in a Nashville hotel to lobby legislators. The press dubbed it the War of the Roses because supporters of the suffrage movement wore yellow roses in their labels while its opponents wore red roses.

On August 19, the vote appeared to be tied, assuming the count of red and yellow roses was correct. When the roll call came, 24-year-old Harry T. Burn stepped into history. Burn came from a very conservative district and wore a red rose in his label, but when asked whether he would vote to ratify the amendment he answered “aye”. What changed his mind? A letter from his mother, who told him to “be a good boy” and vote in favor of the amendment.

Asked later about his change of heart, Burn 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. 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.”


If you have the right to vote, use it. Because one vote can in fact change the world.


*Note that I do not use the phrase “gave them the right to vote”. Women fought hard for that right. Some even died for it.

**As I mentioned in a previous post, there is an element of condescension is that “ette”




  1. Terri Lyon on November 5, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    What a neat story!

    • pamela on November 5, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      History provides some of the best stories!

  2. Lydia on November 5, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    What a great post. I’m so glad Harry’s mother prodded him to change his mind that day.

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