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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No Woman Is an Island

The photograph on the East Front of the Capitol on March 20, 1918, straddled the seasons, winter in Washington yielding to a fresh spring.

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Jeannette Rankin and the Women's Suffrage Amendment

It was no accident—nor mere symbolism—that on January 10, 1918, a woman led the effort on the floor of the U.S. House to pass the landmark resolution for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. The first such proposal had been introduced in Congress almost 50 years earlier, but it was Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve on Capitol Hill, who steadily built support in the House for women's voting rights throughout the 65th Congress (1917–1919).

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Jeannette Rankin’s Fight to Make Mines Safe for Democracy

On August 18, 1917, 15,000 people packed into a baseball park in the mining town of Butte, Montana, to listen as Representative Jeannette Rankin assailed the Anaconda Copper Mining Company for its role in an ongoing labor dispute. Two months earlier, on June 8, an inferno had engulfed the nearby Speculator Mine, killing 168 miners. In the aftermath, the surviving miners went on strike, and Rankin traveled to her home state to offer her full-throated support for the walk out. The Washington Times reported, “Miss Jeannette Rankin is a friend of the striking miners.”

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Speaking Up

This wasn’t how Jeannette Rankin envisioned her first speech in the House. Surely, Rankin—who had spent her entire adult life fighting for equal rights before becoming the first woman elected to Congress—would use her inaugural address to champion the issue of women’s suffrage when the moment arose. But recent events in her Montana district forced her to speak up sooner than she had planned.

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“Congress Took No Further Action”: Women and the Right to Petition

In 1838, women in Brookline, Massachusetts, reacted with “astonishment and alarm” at the recently adopted gag rule, which tabled all antislavery petitions. They signed their names to a brief but searing petition to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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