Phoebe “Febb” Ensminger Burn goes to show that just one person — one vote — can alter the course of history.
In August of 1920, the Tennessee legislature was debating ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 35 states had ratified the amendment, one state shy of the three-fourths needed. That morning, Harry T. Burn received a seven-page letter he received that morning from his mother Febb that read: “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 yet… Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt with her “Rats.” Is she the one that put rat in ratification, Ha! With lots of love, Mama.”
When called on to explain his vote, Harry would state, “I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.” (A smart lad!)
The rest is quite literally history. The 19th Amendment became the law of the land. Last month, Tennessee lawmakers voted to designate August 18 (the day the vote was cast) as Febb Burn Day. The League created the Febb E. Burn Society to honor Febb and to celebrate our donors who have gone so far above and beyond the call of duty by donating $2,500 or more in one year. We continue the work that Febb Burn, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Susan B. Anthony began that finally came to fruition 98 years ago.