Jeannette Rankin was an American politician and women’s rights advocate and, the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana in 1916 and, again, in 1940. As of 2022, Rankin is still the only woman ever elected to Congress from Montana.
Each of Rankin’s Congressional terms coincided with initiation of U.S. military intervention in the two World Wars. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of 50 House members who opposed the declaration of war on Germany in 1917. In 1941, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A suffragist during the Progressive Era, Rankin organized and lobbied for legislation enfranchising women in several states including Montana, New York and North Dakota. While in Congress, she introduced legislation that eventually became the 19th Constitutional Amendment, granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. She championed a multitude of diverse women’s rights and civil rights causes throughout a career that spanned more than six decades.
Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, to John and Olive Rankin at Grant Creek Ranch near Missoula, in what was then the Montana Territory. She was the first of seven children […] in a prosperous family. Her father […] was a rancher and builder who had come to Montana from Canada. Her mother […] had moved from New Hampshire to teach before marrying John Rankin and becoming a housewife. Jeannette attended Montana State University in Missoula (now the University of Montana) and graduated in 1902 with a degree in biology. [Her] career in politics began as a student volunteer with a local women’s suffrage campaign in Washington State, preparing for a referendum on voting rights. [In] February 1911, she became the first woman to address the Montana legislature when she testified in support of women’s suffrage.
History, Art & Archives
United States House of Representatives
Rankin held office in her first term from March 4, 1917, one-hundred and five years, ago, today, to March 3, 1919. Her second term was from January 3, 1941 to January 3, 1943. Powerful enemies made sure she could not get re-elected. Twenty-four years later, she reclaimed her seat. She never married and passed away May 18, 1973 at the age of 92. ~Vic
Jeannette Rankin (Biography/February 27, 2018)
Montana’s Women Candidates Are Out To Set Another Record (Billings Gazette/Web Archive/October 25, 2016)
Seven Things About Jeannette Rankin (History Channel/Jesse Greenspan/September 1, 2018)