DEBATE 2020: Hardship to Hard Work: The Role of Women, State of Tennessee in Passing the 19th Amendment

woman in hat with yellow roses

The Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business virtually presented an event in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage titled “DEBATE 2020: Hardship to Hard Work: The Role of Women and the State of Tennessee in Passing the 19th Amendment.” The event was led by Laura Franklin, a Tennessee State Parks ranger who works with interpretive programs and the Education Team. Franklin played a role in the historic reenactment of the house vote in Tennessee for the 19th Amendment at the Tennessee State Capitol on August 18.

“Words matter, and they matter especially in situations like this,” said Franklin, recounting women’s role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She emphasized that women were not given the right to vote, rather they fought hard for it during the suffrage movement for more than 70 years. Numerous suffrage leaders paved the way for women and men to participate in the movement. The passing of the 19th Amendment was a hard-fought battle. As states across the West began to ratify, followed by votes from states in the Northeast, the battle heightened and came down to the southern states to make the decisive vote, specifically the state of Tennessee. Known as “The Perfect 36,” Tennessee was the final state needed to ratify the bill.

During CEMB’s virtual event, Franklin shared vivid stories of suffrage leaders and pivotal voters who ultimately led to the success of the ratification’s passing. She described the “War of Roses” where suffrage supporters wore yellow roses, anti-suffrage supporters wore red roses and women from both groups lobbied in efforts to get legislators who wore these roses to switch from yellow to red or red to yellow. Many voters went back and forth on their vote, but the final vote came down to one young legislator, Harry T. Burn, who voted to pass the bill at the urging of a letter from his mother.

“One single vote: it changes the absolute history of our country and enfranchises women all across the U.S.,” said Franklin. But that is not the end of the battle. Inspired by the historic women who went against the flow and stood up for their rights, Franklin also shared modern day stories of women and men who continue to fight for equal rights for all.

“Become an informed citizen, be active and have a voice in your community,” said Franklin. “Each and every person’s voice is very important.” She encouraged students to recognize the power of what privilege they have and to utilize that power in a way that lifts people up and encourages others. She challenged everyone to continue to work farther and farther towards equal rights and social justice and equality for all people.

This event was part of the “Ideas of America” programming surrounding the third and final Presidential Debate to be held on Belmont’s campus on October 22. Find a complete list of Debate programming on the Events Page at