As with any amendment, the last state campaigns to ratify three-fourths approval were the most challenging. The Tennessee story is compelling. Catt came to Tennessee help bolster the effort and later wrote that, in all her decades of campaigns, she had never seen anything like the battles there – bribery, lies, alcohol, threats-- the state capitol had it all. The Senate approved the amendment but the house was evenly split, with legislators wearing red (anti) or yellow (pro) roses to show their positions. The youngest house legislator, Harry Burn, wore a red rose because he thought his constituents were opposed. He had grown up on a ranch managed by his college-educated, widowed mother. When it came to a final vote, he voted “yes” and supported woman suffrage, making Tennessee the 36th and final state to ratify. This astonished advocates on both sides, with the galleries erupting in applause from suffragists and antis yelling their objections. He finally had to flee the raucous chambers.
This is what Burn said the next day:
I want to state that I changed my vote in favor of ratification first because I believe
in full suffrage as a right; second, I believe we had a moral and legal right to ratify; and third, I knew that a mother's advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.
Final certification put the Susan B. Anthony amendment into the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920, and added 26 million potential new American voters.
You are invited to view the new centennial celebration exhibit at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, Women Win the Vote in California and the Country, 205 Railroad Ave., Danville. Hopefully, it will be open this summer, with masks and physical distancing expected.
Alisha H. Gupta, How the Spanish Flu Almost Upended Women’s Suffrage, NYTimes, April 28, 2020; Jean H. Baker, Votes for Women.