Zonta’s History of the Yellow Rose

Zontians adopted the yellow rose as our flower. Zonta is celebrating its centennial and the centennial of the 19th Amendment! Zonta is 100 years old as of 2019!

“The suffragists had readied themselves for defeat as they anxiously counted the roses that symbolized their personal and political fate.”

Katie Mettler explains the history of the women’s suffrage movement in her article “Mother’s letter led to vote for women.” American women fought decades for equal rights and freedom. We know this movement as women’s suffrage. Interestingly, a stalemate in Tennessee divided lawmakers equally between supporting and opposing of women’s rights, but a letter written by a mother to her son, a politician, helped to enact law.

During Tennessee’s third attempt to ratify the 19th Amendment, legislatures carried on the tradition of wearing a yellow or red rose on their lapels. In the male-dominated House, the roses signified how each member would be casting his vote: a yellow rose meant a vote in favor of suffrage whereas red meant the voter would be voting against suffrage. The young politician, Harry T. Burn, wore a red rose during all three sessions. In her article, Mettler explains that beneath the red rose was a letter from Mrs. Febb Burn, Harry’s forward-thinking mother. In her letter, Mrs. Burn criticized her son’s profession as a politician and offered some advice.

“Hurrah and vote for suffrage,” she told her son, “and don’t keep them in doubt.”

When the time came, Mr. Burn heeded his mother’s advice. When Burn was called upon, he removed the red rose and changed his vote to help make the 19th Amendment into law. That historic document that Mrs. Burn wrote is now stowed in a museum— instead of a jacket pocket—and has become a literary monument for the women’s suffrage movement. Like the yellow rose, the letter symbolizes the progress and processes that were made to ratify the new Amendment. Literature canonizes and celebrates great bodies of work, whether a novel, poem, or epistolary collection; Mrs. Burn’s letter—”Mother’s letter”— has become a unique piece of history that that documents a change in opinion and Burn’s realization that sex should not be reason to discriminate. The letter serves as a moment in our history, a moment that should be celebrated, for supporting a new idea, changing up the way things once were, while the letter also demonstrates a resolution the stalemate. On this Centennial of the 19th Amendment and of Zonta, we celebrate women, Febb Burn and Harry Burn, and we celebrate the yellow rose as our symbol of Zonta and the Suffragettes.

Zonta Club of Pinellas welcomes like-minded people to join us in our mission to make the world a place of equality for all and to prevent violence.

By: Tyler Williams

Mettler, K. (2020, August 18). Mother’s letter led to vote for women. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from https://tampabaytimes-fl.newsmemory.com/?publink=27c2160f1