The Last American Suffragette

Miss Febb might have been a lesser known suffragette in 1920, but she soon became one of the most important women in the battle. After more than seventy years of fighting for women”s right to vote, ratification of the 19th Amendment hinged on Tennessee. The Amendment needed 36 states to ratify, and Tennessee was that state. Except, according to all the polls taken, it appeared as though the vote in Tennessee would end in a deadlock. While the Amendment had easily gone through the Senate, it had stalled in the House of Representatives.

miss febb

On the morning of August 18, 1920, a young man, Harry Burn, arrived for the momentous vote. He wore a red rose, signifying his opposition to the Amendment. More importantly, he also carried a letter from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn, known to her family and friends as Miss Febb.  She had a very direct message for her 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. Be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

Mr. Burn was 24. The youngest man in the senate. He listened to his mother and bore the wrath of his peers. But Mr. Burns was no fool. In defending his sudden change of heart, he stated:

 I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.

Had Miss Febb not written her letter, who knows how much longer the battle would have raged.

Like all historical undertakings, the suffragette movement was not without controversy. There were plenty of women who believed that politics were best left to men. The famed society ladies of Boston”s Beacon Hill didn”t believe their fellow women should sully themselves with politics. Religion and the suffragette movement clashed, with both men and women citing Biblical references to deny women the vote. The group also split over the inclusion African American women.

Twice during the movement”s history, competing factions splintered into separate groups. While one side favored extreme tactics, the other side adopted a more moderate approach. Led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the suffragettes took a hiatus during the Civil War. During World War I, the more radical arm of the movement remained active and endured hostility from all sides.  Women who protested before the White House were imprisoned, and some were even force-fed when they incited a hunger strike.


As the years progressed, the friendship between Anthony and Stanton became strained, with Stanton  favoring a more militant approach. The two maintained a great respect for each other and despite their differences Stanton, who died first, requested a photo of Anthony on her coffin.

My fourth book, tentatively scheduled for early 2015, features a suffragette. Last evening I wrote the epilogue for her. My heroine arrives for the first official vote after the 19th Amendment is ratified. She”s in her 60″s and arrives early to find a long line already before the poling place. There”s more, but you”ll have to wait for the book!

It”s humbling to realize we”ve only had the vote for less than 100 years. While my grandmother could vote, my great-grandmother lived during a time when women were not considered sufficiently intelligent to participate in elections.  Hard to imagine, isn”t it?!

Available now!

The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family

The marshalGentlemen don”t court feisty straight shooters like JoBeth McCoy. Just as she”s resigned to a lifetime alone, a misunderstanding forces the spunky telegraph operator into a marriage of convenience. Wedding the town”s handsome new marshal offers JoBeth a chance at motherhood, caring for the orphaned little girl she”s come to love.

Garrett Cain will lose guardianship of his niece, Cora, if he stays single, but he knows no woman could accept the secrets he”s hidden about his past. The lawman can”t jeopardize Cora”s future by admitting the truth. Yet when unexpected danger in the small town threatens to expose Garrett”s long-buried secret, only a leap of faith can turn a makeshift union into a real family.

Coming in August:

The Cattleman Meets His Match

Galahad in a Stetson

Cowboy John Elder needs a replacement crew of cattle hands to drive his longhorns to Kansas—he just never figured they”d be wearing petticoats. Traveling with Moira O”Mara and the orphan girls in her care is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Yet despite Moira”s declaration of independence, the feisty beauty evokes John”s every masculine instinct to protect, defend…marry?

Moira is grateful for John”s help when he rescues her—and she can”t deny that his calm, in-control manner proves comforting. But she is determined not to let anything get in the way of her plans to search for her long-lost brother at journey”s end. However, can John show her a new future—one perfect for them to share?

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11 thoughts on “The Last American Suffragette”

  1. That’s crazy to think about a 100 ago we couldn’t vote. I make sure I vote every chance I get. I didn’t realize that Susan B. Athony was one of the suffragettes. I used to collect the coins with her picture on it. Thanks for sharing this very important part of history Sherri.
    jennydtipton at gmail dot com

  2. Great post, Sherri. I’m so thankful for the women who had the courage and conviction to fight for my right to vote. And hooray for young Mr. Burn who listened to his mama!

  3. I love that letter. What a wonderful thing for that son to do, little knowing his big impact!
    Thanks for sharing stuff I didn’t know about how the women got the vote. 😉

  4. Tracy, those ladies fought a long battle!

    Karen, Mr. Burns and his mother are a fascinating footnote in history 🙂

    Susan, It’s part of history that should be more celebrated, I think.

  5. hi Sherri, wonderful information. I loved meeting Miss Febb today. How I appreciate the strong, brave women who came before us to make the world a better place and open so many doors! Best of luck with Book Four…it’s a winner for sure! xo

  6. Sherri, What a great post! 1920 was definitely a year of great change. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Most of us look at the suffragette movement as history, a bit removed from us. However, as you stated, our relatives were very likely part of that movement. In my case, it would have been my grandmothers. I doubt either of them was active in the movement, but they certainly reaped the benefits. If we thought about all the changes that have been made and things that have happened the past 100 years, I think we would be surprised just how much the world has changed.

    THE CATTLEMAN MEETS HIS MATCH sounds like it will be a good read. As enjoyable as THE MARSHAL’S READY-MADE FAMILY.

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