Hurrah Phoebe

by Ellindale Wells

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This quilt depicts the difference one woman's words made to the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. I was inspired by Phoebe's impact, but also by her light heartedness in the face of something so serious. I have included part of her letter on the quilt as well as an outline of Tennessee with the results of that one letter, on that one vote, on that one state that made all the difference. 


Phoebe Burn's letter to her son in August of 1920 convinced him to vote for suffrage. Prior to that vote, 35 states had ratified the measure, bringing it one state short of the required 36. If Burn and his colleagues voted in its favor, the 19th Amendment would pass the final hurdle on its way to adoption.


It was down to the wire, the vote was at 48 to 48. Harry Burn was the swing vote. In his pocket he had the letter from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn, known to her family and friends as Miss Febb. 
"Be a good boy and vote for suffrage", she wrote. 


And so her son, Harry Burn voted for the measure. His vote broke the 48/48 tie in Tennessee and with that ratification, the proposal had the support of 36 states and became our Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. 


Having previously opposed the measure, people wondered why he voted for the amendment. Explaining that his decision was in part because "I knew that a mother's advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification."


Hurrah Phoebe!

Century of Women's Progress Quilt Challenge, 1920-2020.