Campaign Ad for Harry Burn, the Republican Who Cast the Deciding Vote for Suffrage in Tennessee

Harry Burn was a Republican elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 1918. Two years later, Burn got the chance to participate in the monumental struggle over whether to ratify the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Tennessee was the 36th state to vote on the amendment—and if legislators passed it there, the amendment would become the law of the land in the United States.

By the time Burn had to make his choice, the vote was 48-48. The History Channel narrates what happened next:

To the dismay of the many suffragists who had packed into the capitol with their yellow roses [a symbol of suffrage support], sashes and signs, it seemed certain that the final roll call would maintain the deadlock. But that morning, Harry Burn—who until that time had fallen squarely in the anti-suffrage camp—received a note from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn, known to her family and friends as Miss Febb. In it, she had written, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt. I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet.” She ended the missive with a rousing endorsement of the great suffragist leader Carrie Chapman Catt, imploring her son to “be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

Still sporting his red boutonniere [a symbol of suffrage opposition] but clutching his mother’s letter, Burn said “aye” so quickly that it took his fellow legislators a few moments to register his unexpected response. With that single syllable he extended the vote to the women of America…

This advertisement for Burn’s election campaign comes courtesy of the McMinn County Historical Society and Tyler Boyd, Burn’s great-grand uncle.


Transatlantic Print Culture, 1880-1940: Emerging Media, Emerging Modernisms

About the book Transatlantic Print Culture:

Building on recent work on Victorian print culture and the turn toward material historical research in modernist studies, this collection extends the frontiers of scholarship on the ‘Atlantic scene’ of publishing, exploring new ways of grappling with the rapidly changing universe of print at the turn of the twentieth century.

This book includes a number of references to print media’s use in the suffrage movement, in chapters such as “Transatlantic Print Culture: The Anglo-American Feminist Press and Emerging ‘Modernities'”; and “Feminist Things.” Both chapters focus on newspapers, magazines, and advertisements from the suffrage era. For example, in chapter three (“Transatlantic Print Culture”), Lucy Delap and Maria DiCenzo discuss the transnational connections of feminist periodicals on suffrage, which were produced in and circulated between both Britain and the United States.

Significant excerpts of the book are available for free preview on and Google Books, and you can buy a full-length e-book version from the publisher’s website. Also, academic and public libraries may hold copies of the book; check WorldCat to see if there is one near you.

ISBN 978-0-230-22845-0

Advertisement: “Gift for National Woman’s Party”—Susan B. Anthony Medallion

This newspaper clipping from the May 5, 1922 edition of Tennessee’s Dickson County Herald shows sculptor Leila Usher next to her bas-relief portrait of the famous feminist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Usher presented this work to the National Woman’s Party, to be put on display at the organization’s national headquarters in Washington, DC.

A digitized version of the original photo of Usher and the portrait is available for viewing and download through the Library of Congress website.

You can read about the National Woman’s Party’s pro-suffrage public awareness campaign here and access an archive of primary source material related to the NWP here.