How Women’s Right To Vote Impacted Perception of Yellow Rose

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By Jill Brooke

Proving that red roses aren’t always the best choice, a son opted to listen to the advice of his mother which resulted in women getting the right to vote in 1920.

It was back in 1920 when Harry T. Burn, the youngest member of Tennessee’s state legislature arrived for the ratifying of the 19th Amendment, wearing a red rose on his lapel which meant an anti-suffragist vote instead of a yellow one that supporters wore.

As Tennessee State Museum curator Miranda Fraley-Rhodes explains, the 19th Amendment was just one state shy of ratification, with thirty-five states having already passed it. American women needed Tennessee’s vote to make it the “Perfect Thirty-Six.”

A special session of the Tennessee legislature was called, and members of the General Assembly “showed their colors” by wearing roses on their lapels. When a woman convinced a legislator to join their side, they would ceremoniously pin a rose on his jacket. By counting the number of red roses worn by the representatives at that moment, it appeared that the amendment would be defeated.

McClung Historical Collection at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville


McClung Historical Collection/Knox County Public Library System


Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD,  floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine. 

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