Student contest highlights women’s suffrage

Josh FloryFarragut, Our Town Kids

It’s been nearly 100 years since American women won the right to vote, and Knox County students are marking the occasion with movies, essays and art.

The Suffrage Coalition, a local nonprofit, is sponsoring a Centennial Celebration Contest to mark the Aug. 18, 1920, vote that approved the 19th Amendment.

As part of the contest, students can submit entries in three categories: a literary category that includes a poem or essay, a visual arts category including several design types and a documentary category.

Angie Maxey and Sarah Eddins, teachers at Farragut Intermediate School, are helping spearhead the contest and have been performing skits – in costume – on the school’s morning news program to raise awareness.

While the state of Tennessee requires fifth-graders to learn about the suffrage movement, Eddins said most of them are not aware of the topic until hearing about it in school.

Maxey said the goal of the contest is to get students involved in the centennial celebration. “We’re really excited to see what they come up with,” she added.

Tennessee played a decisive role in the women’s suffrage movement. After Congress approved the 19th Amendment it went to the states for ratification, and Tennessee was the 36th state to vote in favor, providing the needed two-thirds majority of states.

In fact, it was an East Tennessee lawmaker – state Rep. Harry Burn of McMinn County – who switched his vote to break a tie in the House. Later, Burn credited his decision to a letter from his mother, Febb Burn, urging him to support suffrage.

Knoxville attorney Wanda Sobieski, president of the Suffrage Coalition, said that while it may be hard to believe now, the idea of allowing women to vote was “extraordinarily controversial” in 1920.

Sobieski said the story of Harry Burn and Febb Burn is important because “it tells us not only every vote counts but every letter or phone call or telegram counts. And sometimes just one more person deciding to do the right, or trying to do the right thing, will make all the difference.”

The deadline for contest entries is Feb. 14. For more information, visit the Farragut Intermediate School website.

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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