History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives

Jeannette Rankin for Senate

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana earned a permanent place in U.S. history by becoming the first woman elected to Congress. She served two non-consecutive terms and became the only person to vote against America’s entry into both World War I in 1917 and World War II in 1941. Her political career ended with her lone vote against war on December 8, 1941, as the U.S. Pacific Fleet burned at Pearl Harbor.

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Edition for Educators—Districts

Massachusetts Speaker Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” With elections held every two years, the House of Representatives is designed to be immediately answerable to its constituents. Members typically seek to gain committee assignments that align with their districts’ interests and frequently return home to connect with voters. This Edition for Educators focuses on congressional districts and how their unique needs influence the Members who represent them.

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Campaign Ink Blotters

Before the age of the ballpoint pen, Americans wrote their documents with fountain pens dipped in ink. Blotters soaked up the excess ink, and were a popular campaign object for decades, from their invention in the late 19th century until ballpoint pens hit the market after World War II, shoving fountain pens off the desktop by 1960.

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Rolling Billboards

It started simply enough, a hundred years ago. Americans bought cars. Americans loved cars. And Americans loved politics. So, it seemed almost inevitable that automobiles became rolling billboards for their owners’ favorite candidates. Representatives cheerfully provided different auto accessories, which became a favorite method for taking the campaign on the road.

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A Womanly Woman with Womanly Ambitions

On June 1, 1917, Jeannette Rankin penned a letter to her Montana constituents articulating her frustration with some recent media coverage. “No doubt you have read in the papers about my ‘red hair’ and ‘sending the fathers to war’ and other inventions of the eastern press. I wish you were here to see Congress working and to know the true facts,” she wrote. After all, she didn’t have red hair and she voted against American intervention in World War I.

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The Original “Year of the Woman”

The woman suffrage campaign appeared to begin 1916 in rough shape. Beyond internal drama among suffragists, however, widely scattered action was taking place at the grassroots. Over the course of 1916 numerous women candidates were seeking election to Congress, and several had entered major-party primaries that now dominated candidate selection throughout the country. Jeannette Rankin was far from alone.

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