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Guest column/Local BPW continues national group’s mission

October 21, 2012
The Herald-Star

The kickoff to national Business and Professional Women's Week opens today with an ecumenical service in Steubenville with guests from our surrounding states, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ohio BPW is hosting this event, along with the help of the Ohio Valley BPW, our local club.

The mission of Business and Professional Women is to achieve equity in the workplace for all women through advocacy, education and information.

In August of 1920, a national drama brought its final moment to Nashville, Tenn. The 19th Amendment was about to become a law with an historical vote brought about by one mother who had quite an influence over her son. In June 1919, the U.S. Congress voted to append 39 words to the Constitution. Anyone who read the words was moved to take a stand. Those 39 words comprised the 19th Amendment which, if ratified by 36 states, would give women the right to vote. Thirty-five states had passed it, and the suffragists knew their victory was not inevitable.

Reporters in Nashville were present from New York, Chicago and Washington. Also present were Boston celebrities such as the national suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt. Legislators in Nashville wore roses on their lapels - yellow for a "yes" vote, red for a "no" vote. Suffragists knowing they were shy of the vote, a second roll was taken, which was deadlocked at 48 for and 48 against. A third roll call was taken when the youngest legislator, Harry Burn, suddenly broke the deadlock, even though he was wearing a red rose. With his "yea" vote, Burn had delivered universal suffrage to all American women. Tempers flared, and he had to take refuge in the capitol attic as his outraged opponents began chasing him.

When tempers had cooled, Burn was asked to explain the red rose on his lapel and his "yellow rose" vote. He said that even though people could see his red rose on his lapel, what they could not see was a telegram in his breast pocket from his mother in East Tennessee.

She urged him to do the right thing and vote in favor of the amendment. Gov. A.H. Roberts signed the bill on Aug. 24, 1920, and two days later the 19th Amendment became national law. One-hundred-and-45 years after the Declaration of Independence, American women had earned the constitutional right to vote - thanks in large part to a woman named Febb Ensminger Burn and her son, Harry.

Without a doubt, the women's right to vote has had a profound effect on many elections. We salute the Burns family this year for their courage. The Ohio Business and Professional Women embrace equality in the workplace.

For membership in our local Ohio Valley Business and Professional Club, call (740) 283-2531 or write to Meetings are held the third Tuesday of each month from September to May.

(Riccadonna, a resident of Steubenville, is Ohio president-elect of the Business and Professional Women's Club.)

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