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The American Almanac – November 7, 2011




was the first woman elected to the United States Congress. Jeanette Rankin was born on a ranch near Missoula Montana. She was the first of 11 children born to John Rankin, a rancher and builder who had emigrated from Canada, and all of Pickering a Yankee who is a former schoolteacher. Her parents were well-to-do and prominent in Montana affairs.  Jeanette, who never married, attended the University of Montana and graduated in 1902 with a degree in biology.  while on a visit to Boston in 1904 she was horrified at slum conditions and decided to enter social work. She enrolled in the New York school of philanthropy, hich later became part of Columbia University. After graduating she worked in Spokane, Washington and while they are she studied social legislation at the University of Washington. Ranking involved in the woman’s suffrage movement while she was in Washington and argued that slum conditions were worsened by women’s inability to vote. In 1910 and she returned to Montana to work for the Montana Equal Franchise Society. She declared that she was suspicious of governmental priorities set without a woman’s voice and argued that vote was women were being taxed without representation echoing the famous credo from the American Revolution.  Rankin was hired as an organizer by the New York Women’s Suffrage Party and National American Woman Suffrage Association. As a field secretary for NAWSA, Rankin directed a suffrage victory in North Dakota in 1913.  she quit the organization in the following year to return to Montana to help secure the passage of women’s suffrage there which was achieved in 1914. On November 7, 1916, Rankin was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana, becoming the first female member of Congress. The 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote everywhere across the United States was not ratified until 1920, so during Rankin’s first term in Congress many women throughout the country did not have the right to vote. While in Congress, Rankin supported women’s suffrage, child protection laws and prohibition.  Wellington Rankin, her brother, served as her chief advisor and financial backer during her term. Though she cast one of 50 votes against the entering of World War I, Rankin devoted herself to selling liberty bonds and voted for the military draft. Her first term ended in 1919.  for the next two decades she worked as a lobbyist in Washington DC for various causes. She was the founding vice president of the ACLU, and a founding member of the Women’s International Leak for Peace and Freedom. In 1940, she was again elected to Congress, this time on an antiwar platform. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, she once again voted against entering a world war, the only member of Congress to do so. “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else,” she said. Montana Republican leaders demanded that she change her vote but she refused.  She did not, however, vote against declaring war on Germany and Italy following their declaration of war on the US. Instead, she merely voted “present.” by 1942 her antiwar stance had become so unpopular that she did not seek real election. During the remainder of her life she traveled to India seven times and was a day of OT of Gandhian principles of nonviolence and self-determination. It has been 95 years since Jeannette Rankin was first elected to Congress. Since that time, there have been several dozens of women to serve in the United States Congress. At this time, there are several people vying for the Republican nomination for the office of President of the United States.  One of those people is a woman, namely Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota.  Jeannette Rankin died in 1973, we wonder what she would think about where women have come at this time in our history.]]]]> ]]>

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