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90 Years After the 19th Amendment was Ratified

By August 18, 2010

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Say what you will about 'mama's boys,' but a young man's love and respect for his mother is the reason why today is a special day in women's history. (Hold on...I'll share the full story shortly.)

Ninety years ago today, Tennessee became the 36th state to vote for passage of the 19th Amendment, ensuring the right of women to vote.  If you didn't plan any big celebration today, don't worry -- you still get another chance on August 26th. That day marks the signing of the proclamation making the 19th Amendment part of the US Constitution.

Here's what's happening on this 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment:

The Washington Post mentions the various politicians who are celebrating the day, including Sarah Palin (who confuses the words 'cackle' with 'gaggle' and attacks other women in a tweet.)

The Village Voice notes that "19th amendment" is a hot search term today -- the most-searched term as of 5:20 pm EST. (Whatever it takes to get the general public to pay attention to women's issues!)

The Christian Science Monitor muses, "How far have women in politics come since 1920?" (Far, but not far enough.)

The Guardian looks back at the historic decision of the Tennessee state legislature to back the 19th Amendment, highlighting the story of Harry Burn, a young lawyer initially opposed whose mind was changed by a letter from his mother. He switched his vote and supported ratification, and so the motion passed 49-47.

The Guardian reproduced what Burn's mother, Febb Ensminger Burn wrote in that momentous letter:

Dear Son, ... Hurray and vote for Suffrage and don't keep them in doubt.... I've been waiting to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet.... Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs Catt [Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the US suffragette movement] with her "Rats." Is she the one that put rat in ratification, Ha! No more from mama this time. With lots of love, Mama.

When anti-suffragists protested and accused Burn of accepting a bribe to change his vote, he responded:

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; 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; fourth, I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free seventeen million women from political slavery was mine; fifth, I desired that my party in both State and nation might say that it was a republican from the East mountains of Tennessee, the purest Anglo-Saxon section in the world, who made national woman suffrage possible at this date, not for personal glory but for the glory of his party.

Burn would be glad to know that "the glory of his party" is again blazing bright as a historic number of GOP women are running for office this year.

So whether you're red or blue or purple or independent, Happy 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

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August 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm
(1) Veronica says:

There are many ways to commemorate one of the most important events in American history. One way is to volunteer in a political campaign. Another is to run for political office yourself. A third and best way to commemorate this? VOTE. By voting, we will make sure that the 72 years of protests, petitions, marching, and endurances of forced feedings, ridicule, mockery, and threats will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

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