Jeannette Rankin

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Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was the first woman in the U.S. Congress. A Republican, she was elected statewide in 1916 and again in 1940. A lifelong pacifist, she voted against the entry of the United States into both World War I and World War II, the only member of Congress to vote against the latter. To date, she is the only woman to be elected to Congress from Montana.[1]



Early life and suffrage movement

Rankin was born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, the first of seven children born to John Rankin, a rancher and builder who had immigrated from Canada, and Olive Pickering, a Yankee who was a former schoolteacher. Her parents were well-to-do and prominent in Montana affairs. Jeannette Rankin never married. She attended the University of Montana and graduated in 1903 with a bachelor of science degree in biology.

On a visit to Boston in 1904 she was horrified at slum conditions and decided to enter social work. She attended the New York School of Philanthropy (later part of Columbia University) in the 1908-1909 school year, and worked in Spokane, Washington. She studied social legislation at the University of Washington, where she became involved in the woman suffrage movement, Agreeing with Jane Addams, Rankin argued that slum conditions were worsened by women's inability to vote. In 1910 she returned to Montana to work for the Montana Equal Franchise Society. Declaring that she was suspicious of governmental priorities set without women's voice, she argued that voteless women were being taxed without representation, an echo of the "No taxation without representation credo of the Founding Fathers of 1776. Rankin was hired as an organizer by the New York Women's Suffrage Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As a field secretary for NAWSA in 1913, Rankin directed a suffrage victory in North Dakota that year. She quit NAWSA in 1914 to return to Montana to help secure passage of woman suffrage there, which was achieved in 1914[2].

Congressional career

On November 7, 1916 she was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana, becoming the first female member of Congress. The Nineteenth Amendment (which gave women the right to vote everywhere in the United States) was not ratified until 1920; therefore, during Rankin's first term in Congress (1917–1919), many women throughout the country did not have the right to vote, though they did in her home state of Montana. She supported woman's suffrage, child-protection laws, and prohibition.

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