Preservation Society celebrates 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

Preservation Society celebrates 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

Replica pins from the 1920s women’s suffrage movement will be on display at the Scituate Preservation Society’s 100th anniversary pop-up on Oct. 24.

SCITUATE – The 19th amendment, which grants women the right to vote, came down to one vote in 1920 in the Tennessee legislature, where a win could only happen if a lawmaker changed his mind.

One legislator, Harry Burn, held in his lapel pocket a letter sent to him from his mother, Febb Burn, reminding him to “be a good boy,” and to change his position on women’s right to vote.

Up until that moment on Aug. 18, 1920, the Tennessee House of Representatives was split in a tie, which would have left the amendment defeated. It needed to be backed by three-quarters of the United States, or 36 states. If approved, Tennessee would make the “Perfect 36th.”

When his turn came to vote, Burr voted to ratify, stating, “A mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow.”

Scituate Preservation Society member Fred Faria recounted the history-making story while holding a copy of the historic letter.

“He voted for it. It’s just precious. Here it is, here,” Faria said.

With a presidential election around the corner, society members say they feel obligated to honor the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote during a pop-up event on Oct. 24, despite the Office of the Secretary of State canceling all other such events.

According to Faria, the event will feature the secretary of state’s Traveling Treasures exhibit “XIX: Shall Not Be Denied,” in a socially distanced, outdoor event.

The society is calling the event An Election and the 19th Amendment 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote, held outside its headquarters in Historic Grange #39, 706 Hartford Pike, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This little presentation will pack a big punch,” Faria promised.

Faria said he learned of the exhibit through The Valley Breeze & Observer when the Greenville Library in Smithfield was first to host the exhibit in February. Then, like most things in 2020, the traveling exhibit was canceled due to COVID-19. But Faria was determined to celebrate women’s history in Scituate.

“I told them we should keep it on the calendar, that we’ll work with them to get this here,” Faria said.

Faria reached out to local Girl Scout troops to act as docents for the exhibit, earning a badge while they’re at it.

“It’s a women’s thing. I think that’s great,” he said.

To complement the exhibit, Faria reached out to local historians and collectors to bring historic election pieces to the exhibit.

Faria reached out to John Gorham of Gorham and Gorham Law, who provided historic presidential election memorabilia, including campaign pins and pamphlets from Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and more.

Gorham’s collection also features items from local elections in the 1980s, Faria said, which he thinks will be amusing to see.

“What I think is cute is the people in town know these people because they were on the Town Council. They’re going to see them 40 years later and say, oh, this guy was never young,” Faria laughed.

The SOS and Gorham collections will be completed with artifacts from the SPS archives, Faria said, including items that have “never been seen” by the public. Items include a 1894 election notice, once traditionally hung on buildings around town to notify of an election.

October is the society’s membership drive month, and any new members will receive a replica women’s suffrage pin designed from actual suffrage buttons from the early 1900s.