Historical Highlights

The Swearing-In of the First Woman Elected to Congress, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana

April 02, 1917
The Swearing-In of the First Woman Elected to Congress, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana Image courtesy of Library of Congress Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a suffrage leader and pacifist, was the only Member of Congress to vote against the entrance to World War I and World War II.
On this date, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, was sworn into the House. Rankin had campaigned as a progressive in 1916, pledging to work for a constitutional woman suffrage amendment and emphasizing social welfare issues. Long a committed pacifist, she did not hesitate to let voters know how she felt about possible U.S. participation in the European war that had been raging for two years: “If they are going to have war, they ought to take the old men and leave the young to propagate the race.” She won one of Montana’s At-Large seats and began her House service dramatically when Congress was called into an extraordinary April session after Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on all Atlantic shipping. She arrived at the Capitol to be sworn in along with the other Members of the 65th Congress (1917–1919). Escorted by her Montana colleague, Representative John M. Evans, Rankin looked like “a mature bride rather than a strong-minded female,” an observer wrote. “When her name was called the House cheered and rose, so that she had to rise and bow twice, which she did with entire self-possession.”

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Since 1917, when Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress, more than 300 women have followed. Women in Congress documents their service.

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Test your knowledge of women who served in Congress with this fact sheet. Jeannette Rankin, Mary Norton, and Shirley Chisholm are a few of the women Members who made history in the House.

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