On this day in 1920, Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Oddly, School House Rock’s story of women’s suffrage, which is perfectly accurate in every other detail, neglects to mention that the critical vote hinged on Harry Burn’s decision to listen to his mama.
By late summer 1920, thirty-five of the thirty-six states required for ratification had passed the Amendment. Pro- and anti-suffrage activists, wearing yellow and red roses respectively, descended upon Nashville, Tennessee, where the state legislature appeared to be deadlocked on the issue. On August 18, a preliminary roll call yielded a 48-48 tie. Then, after a second roll call also ended in a stalemate, the 24-year-old Burn, proudly wearing a red rose pinned to his lapel, changed his vote. An infuriated mob descended upon Burn, who reportedly escaped out of window and then hid in the State Capitol’s attic.
Burn later explained that upon hearing that he would vote against suffrage, his elderly mother had sent him a telegram asking him to change his mind. And like any good son, he eventually agreed. What most people don’t know is that Burn, as he cast his deciding vote, shouted “Lucretia!”