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Fall 2000

First Quarter Edition 2000

Proposed Constitutional Amendments
President's Message (Maile Bay)
Hawaii Elections Project (HEP) Has a New Executive Director
League's DV Studies Makes Headlines
Lighting the Candles to Peace
Millenium Anniversary to Remember (Anne Stokely)
On the Home Front (Honolulu)
On the Home Front - Big Island
On the Home Front - Kauai
Constitutional Amendment to Eliminate Unfair Provision
National Coalition Launches Campaign
Membership Directory

A Millenium Anniversary to Remember

The following is an article by Anne Stokely of the LWV Of Hamilton-Wenham which appeared in the July, 2000 Massachusetts Voter. We are printing this with their permission. The subheads and bold letters and italics for emphasis are our own additions

During this year of millennium celebrations, there is an anniversary that the League certainly should note: the 80th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The long struggle toward women's suffrage came to a dramatic climax on an August day in Nashville, Tennessee in 1920 when the weather was not the only source of heat.

Congress had finally approved the Nineteenth Amendment in June of 1919, but a total of 36 states were required to ratify the amendment for it to become law. By the summer of 1920, 35 states had ratified the amendment and eight had rejected it. (Note: Massachusetts was not one of the states that had ratified by August 1920.) Although only one more state was needed, no further legislative sessions were scheduled before the November 23 presidential election. President Woodrow Wilson, who had been converted to the cause of women's suffrage, pressured the pro-suffrage governor of Tennessee to call a special legislative session. If ratification failed in Tennessee, women's right to vote would be delayed for another generation.

The War of the Roses

Suffragists and anti-suffragists from across the county descended upon Nashville for what became known as "the war of the roses." Yellow was the suffrage color, while red was that of the antisuffragists. Both yellow and red roses flooded hotel lobbies, restaurants and legislative corridors.

A young Knoxville reporter, Mary French Caldwell, remembered covering the legislative session; "It was a wet August, just wet enough to make the vegetation greener than usual, and to set fields and fence-rows ablaze with the gold of the official suffrage colors. Black-eyed susans and other yellow wildflowers, and toward the latter part of the month, the goldenrod bloomed in profusion. "Everyone favoring women suffrage wore either a yellow flower or yellow ribbon -- and the Nashville gardeners did not hesitate to strip their gardens for flowers to decorate suffrage headquarters and to place in the lapels of loyal legislators and new converts to the cause."

Carrie Chapman Catt traveled from New York to Nashville for the vote, and she did not enjoy the dog-days-of-summer showdown. She wrote on August 15, "I've been here a month. It is hot, muggy, nasty, and this last battle is desperate. Even if we win, we who have been here will never remember it with anything but a shudder."

The Ratification Battle

The Tennessee Senate voted for ratification, but the House vote was tied. Suffragists planned strategy in hot rooms with windows left open for ventilation above the closed doors. Anti-suffragist spies reportedly mounted ladders to eavesdrop through the open windows to learn the next move of the suffragists. According to a count of roses on lapels, the anti-suffragists appeared headed for victory on the August 18 vote by a margin of 49-47. However, in the first roll call, Representative Banks Turner changed his vote to suffrage, and the vote was tied at 48 to 48. The count remain tied on the second roll call.

On the nail-biting third roll call, events took an unexpected turn. The youngest member of the House, 24-year-old Harry T. Bum of mountainous McMinn County, changed his vote to "yes," despite wearing a red rose in his lapel. The amendment had passed. Tempers flared, and opponents chased Burn, forcing him to flee out a third-floor window of the Capitol. He slid along a window ledge, and finally hid in the Capitol attic. When asked to explain his "yes" vote, he answered that although he did wear a red rose, he had received a telegram from his mother, Mrs. J. L. Burn. Scanning the newspaper coverage of the vote, she had not been able to find any reference to her son. Subsequently she had written to him, "Dear Son: 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. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put 'rat' in ratification. Your Mother." It was this message he had folded in his breast pocket underneath the red rose.

The fight was still not ended. On August 21, a lower court judge granted the anti-suffragists an injunction against the Tennessee's governor's certification of the ratification. This injunction would have the effect of keeping the Tennessee ratification in the state courts until November, after the presidential election. Although the injunction had no basis in law, neither the governor nor the suffragists wished any appearance of having won the certification illegally.

After a dramatic two-day interlude, the state attorney emerged from hiding to present a plea to the State Supreme Court, which was granted to dissolve the injunction. Governor Alfred H. Roberts signed the certification and it was sent to the Secretary of State. In the euphoria following the vote, the prediction was made that "in five years half the Legislature would be female." That prediction deserves categorization with those of pending Y2K disaster on January 21, 2000. Suffice it to say that the League still has its work cut out.

Anne Stokely

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