Jeannette Rankin

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Jeannette Rankin
Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin (June 11, 1880May 18, 1973) was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first female member of Congress. A Republican and a lifelong pacifist, she was the only member of Congress to vote against United States entry in both World War I and World War II. She also led resistance to the Vietnam War.


Rankin, the daughter of a rancher and a schoolteacher, was born in Missoula, Montana. She attended the University of Montana and graduated in 1902. In 1908 she moved to New York City, where she started a career as a social worker. She later moved to Seattle, Washington, and then enrolled at the University of Washington, where she joined the incipient suffrage movement. She played an instrumental role in the movement's fight to grant women the right to vote in Montana, brought to fruition in 1914.

On November 7, 1916 she was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana, becoming the first female member of Congress. She took her seat in the House on March 4, 1917. Only a year into her term, the House voted on the resolution to enter World War I. Rankin cast one of 56 votes against the resolution, earning her immediate vilification from the press. Suffrage groups cancelled her speaking engagements. Despite her vote against entering the war, she devoted herself to selling Liberty Bonds and voted for the military draft.

In 1918 she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination to represent Montana in the United States Senate. She ran an independent candidacy, which also failed. For the next two decades, she worked as a lobbyist in Washington, DC for various causes.

In 1940, Rankin was again elected to Congress, this time on an anti-war platform. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, she once again voted against entering a World War, the only member of Congress to do so.

She did not run for re-election. During the remainder of her life, she traveled to India several times, meeting with fellow pacifists such as Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1968, she led more than 5,000 women who called themselves "The Jeannette Rankin Brigade" to the United States Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Rankin died in Carmel, California. In 1985 a statue of her was placed in the United States Capitol's Statuary Hall.

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