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People Who Changed History Get But Little Recognition

It seems there are always those who stay in the background and allow others to have the glory and recognition, even though they often have been a huge factor in the successful outcome of a project or have contributed to making the world a better place. Too, there are many in the progress of history who are seldom given credit for outstanding successes and someone else accepts the accolades and congratulations.
In this column I want to mention three persons who are not widely known who in a sense changed the course of history.
We have just celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and perhaps our thoughts turned to the first to sign that world-changing document, John Hancock, or to Thomas Jefferson who penned it. Richard Henry Lee is one such person who I believe deserves greater recognition as an important figure in history. It was Lee who introduced a resolution of independence in the Second Continental Congress that led to the writing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Lee’s resolution was short, but it imparted a strong concept that increased the momentum in the Second Continental Congress toward declaring independence from Great Britain. Lee also was on the committee charged with writing that important document.
Lee’s resolution reads: “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances; That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”
When we see an airplane fly across the sky, I believe for many of us the Wright Brothers are the first people to come to mind. I would never in any way try to diminish the importance of those two pioneers in the field of flight. But, there are many who preceded them in the quest to fly through the sky. One of the most prominent was Frenchman Clement Ader. In 1890 Ader claimed to be the first to take off in an airplane under its own power. His invention used a steam-powered engine which couldn’t make a sustained and controlled flight. Had he had a lighter engine, perhaps he would have been recognized as the first to successfully fly in a man-made machine.
The final person I want to mention that I think has received less than adequate recognition is a woman who was instrumental in insuring that all American women have the right to vote. The battle for Women’s Suffrage had been long and hard. On June 4, 1919, the U. S. Congress had voted to append 39 words to the Constitution. Those words were the Nineteenth Amendment and those words gave women the right to vote, if ratified by at least 36 states. In August of 1920 there remained only one more state to ratify for it to become a constitutional amendment. Thirty-five states had ratified it when Tennessee took up the question in Nashville on August 18, 1920. The Suffragist advocates wore yellow roses while the Anti-Suffragists wore red roses. It looked as if the red roses would carry the day. Although Harry Burn, the youngest member of the legislature, wore a red rose, he unexpectedly voted in favor of the bill to the consternation and anger of many in the assembly. It turned out that he had received a note that morning from his mother who urged him to “do the right thing” and vote for women’s right to vote. That mother was Phoebe Ensminger Burn. She should have much recognition in U. S. history due to her history-changing role in assuring that women have the right to vote.