Story Corner is a student-directed feature in Teaching Tolerance magazine. In the current issue, we tell the story of the Tennessee House member who cast the deciding vote for women’s suffrage.
lapel [luh-pehl] (noun) the front part of a jacket collar
amendment [uh-mehnd-ment] (noun) in this case, a change or addition to the Constitution
suffrage [suhf-rihj] (noun) the right to vote, especially in a political election
representative [rehp-ree-zehnt-uh-tiv] (noun) a person who stands for a group of voters
legislature [leh-juh-slay-chur] (noun) in this case, a state body with the power to make laws
opponents [uh-poh-nehntz] (noun) those on the opposite side of a debate
cast [kast] (verb) to give or deposit
This story also features a sidebar called “Questions for Readers.” Answer them in order for a full understanding of Harry Burn’s role in the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The Role of Your State in Suffrage
- Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify—or give approval to—the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. That was also the number of states needed to make the amendment part of the U.S. Constitution. But despite Harry Burn’s vote, Tennessee’s official consent was delayed. As a class, use the Web or other research sources to find out what happened. What does this tell you about the struggle to overcome opposition faced by women seeking equal rights?
- Even after the amendment became part of the Constitution, some states dragged their feet in providing an official endorsement. According to the National Archives, Maryland did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1941 and didn’t send the official ratification document to the U.S. Department of State until 1958. That was 38 years after its passage! Divide into three groups to investigate your own state’s role in women’s suffrage. The first group will research the supporters of the amendment in your state, as well as their tactics. The second will research the role of the opponents of the amendment. And, the third will find out the process the state followed to eventually endorse the amendment.
- In a follow-up classroom session, share the results of your research. Who were the leaders both for and against the amendment? Are their names well known in your state? If so, how and why? How would you characterize your state’s history with the 19th Amendment?