Letter to the Editor: A mother’s note won the vote

Published 4:25 pm Sunday, May 12, 2019

It was steaming hot in Nashville that day – August 18, 1920 – and Tennessee’s General Assembly was in fierce session.  Of the 36 states needed to ratify the amendment that would give women the right to vote, 35 had voted yes. Just one more state was needed.

And now it was up to Tennessee.

For six weeks women had pleaded, lobbied, leaned on legislators to vote AYE for the suffragists NAY for the antis. And now this final, historic vote was tied 48 to 48!

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Harry Burn, the youngest member of the legislature, was personally in favor of ratification but feared for his re-election if he voted yes. But there, in his breast pocket, was a letter from his mother, just arrived that morning. Harry’s widowed mom had written “Dear Son: Hurrah and vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt . . . with lots of love, Mama.”

And here we are again.

North Carolina has the chance to be a national hero by ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Thirty-seven states have done so; one more state is needed.  Bills reside now in the Senate Rules Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. The last several attempts to ratify ERA have failed not because of being voted down but because of never seeing the light of day! They sit in committees gathering cobwebs, ignored, a quiet slap in the face to the 52% of North Carolinians who happen to be women.

The ERA is about equality of rights as citizens. Women’s legal rights do not equal those of men.

As Justice Scalia said, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only question is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” The ERA has nothing to do with abortion – but it does have to do with equal pay for equal work, which would be an enormous boon to the 40% of households headed by women.

What is the opposition? Myths. Untruths. Misunderstanding. Businesses that don’t want to bother equalizing salaries.

If only Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Berger and Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Rabon would write to their powerful sons in the General Assembly and say “Dear Son: Hurrah and vote for the Equal Rights Amendment . . . it is the right thing to do. With lots of love, Mama.”

Judy Lotas

ERA State Co-chair, League of Women Voters

Director, ERA-NC  Alliance