Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The War of the Roses....

Mention the War of the Roses to a historian, and he or she will most likely think of the long, medieval battle between the Houses of York and Lancaster for the throne of England.  Tennessee had its own version, though, happily, with no bloodshed.

On August 20, 1920, after weeks of debate, the Tennessee State Legislature ratified the 19th Amendment by one vote.  Of course, this is the amendment giving women the right to vote.  In the weeks leading up to the vote, the Hermitage Hotel served as headquarters for supporters of both factions:  pro-ratification supporters, who wore yellow roses, and anti-suffrage supporters, who wore red roses.  Thus, the debate was dubbed the War of the Roses.

The one vote that broke the tie between pro-amendment and anti-amendment was dramatic indeed.  The very young legislator, Harry T. Burn, had gone about wearing a red rose, indicating his anti-suffrage feelings.  Yet, in his pocket, he also carried a letter from his mother, who urged him to "Hurrah and vote for suffrage!"  She told him she had been anxiously waiting to see what he would do.  After much thought, Harry decided that he should obey his mother and vote for suffrage, after all. This caused an outcry among the people who had counted on him to vote against the amendment. Harry, who was born in Niota, Tennessee, lived from 1895-1977.         

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