Today marks one hundred years since Tennessee became the 36th and deciding state to approve the 19th amendment to the Constitution, the one that says the right to vote cannot be denied the on account of a person’s sex.

It had been a long and difficult campaign for women’s suffrage, one that would effectively continue for women of color.

And even on that day 100 years ago it wasn’t clear that both chambers of Tennessee’s legislature would approve them.

The lawmaker that cast the deciding ballot in favor of the amendment was 24 year-old Harry Burn, who had gone into the chamber wearing a red rose on his lapel that opponents were sporting (the suffrage supporters wore yellow ones).

But Burn reversed himself and voted yes because of a letter from his mother.


Febb Ensminger Burn had gone to college at a time when many women didn’t have that opportunity.

She would go on to work as a teacher, and, after her husband died, she took over the family farm and oversaw the family’s hosiery business as well as their four kids.

Her descendants say that even with all that on her plate, Febb Burn still managed to read three or four newspapers a day to keep up on current events.

When she realized that her own son might be able to help ratify the suffrage amendment, she sent him a seven-page letter reminding him to “be a good boy” and vote in favor.

That’s what he did, but, because he’d switched sides during the extremely close vote, there were claims he’d been bribed.

Not so, he said, making reference to the letter Febb had sent him: “I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow. And my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.”

There’s a statue of Febb Burn and her son, Harry, together in Knoxville, Tennessee, marking the time 100 years ago that a mother got her son to vote for ratification of the 19th amendment.


There’s a speedy new invention by researchers in South Korea: a robotic tongue.

It’s modeled after the super-fast tongue of the chameleon, and they say it could be useful for people who are bedridden to grab stuff, or even for drones to pick up objects.

Of course, pets might try to grab these things.

A cat really could get your tongue!

Their great-grandma helped secure women’s suffrage. Now, they’re the first female owners of the family business (Knox News)

How one Tennessee mother’s influence changed history and led to women’s suffrage (Tennessean)

Scientists develop a lightning fast robot tongue (Yahoo)

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Photo by Jill/Blue Moonbeam Studio via Flickr/Creative Commons