Tennessee Recognized for its Vital Role in Women’s Suffrage

How a Lawmaker’s Mother Saved the Day for Passage of the 19th Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C.  August 18 – As the country gears up to celebrate the centennial of a woman’s right to vote in the United States, Tennesseans are remembering the day when their state became the last to approve the 19th Amendment, thanks to one lawmaker’s mom.  

As memorialized in the new WNDC Educational Foundation offering, Women and the Vote: Centennial Calendar, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, by only a single vote. After debating the issue in the state legislature, the vote resulted in a tie. Tennessee lawmaker Harry Burn, the tie-breaking vote, was set to vote against the amendment, until his mother advised him to vote in favor.   

And so, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee secured her place in history, removing the last barrier to women’s right to vote. The amendment was passed by Congress only a week later, on August 26.  

As the countdown begins for the 19th Amendment centennial celebration, Americans are revisiting the amazing courage and fortitude of the women—and men—who tirelessly fought for women’s equal participation in our nation’s democracy. You can explore their fascinating stories on the websites of the National Park Service and the Newseum. The WDNC’s Centennial Calendar is a gorgeous rendition of the events and people that made women’s right to vote a reality, and highlights Tennessee’s important role in that struggle. All proceeds go to efforts to increase voter registration across the country.  

The story of universal suffrage is still unfolding. Despite progress, voter suppression efforts are alive and well, interfering with the ability of all citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Roadblocks to universal participation include barriers in the voter registration process, restrictions on casting ballots, and discriminatory and partisan-rigged district maps.   

The WDNC Educational Foundation, a non-partisan, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is dedicated to ensuring all citizens have equal access to the voting booth. To check if you are registered to vote in your state, point your camera at the pattern below and press.


Anna Fierst