Historical Highlights

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana

June 11, 1880
Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, was born on this date near Missoula, Montana. Rankin helped secure the vote for Montana women in 1914 and served as a prominent suffrage lobbyist. In 1916, running as a Republican candidate, she won an At-Large U.S. House seat in Montana and was sworn into office at the opening of the 65th Congress (1917–1919) in April 1917. Several days into her term, Congresswoman Rankin, an avowed pacifist, voted against U.S. intervention in World War I. As a House Member, she waged a front-lines fight for women’s suffrage; the House passed an initial voting rights amendment during her tenure, and the 19th Amendment was eventually ratified in 1920. In the 1918 elections, Rankin campaigned for one of Montana’s U.S. Senate seats but lost without major-party support. In the interwar years, she joined several pacifist groups and lobbied Congress to pass social welfare legislation. In 1940 she again won a Montana U.S. House seat, ousting an incumbent. During the 77th Congress (1941–1943) she cast the lone vote against war after the Japanese Imperial Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Rankin’s stand on pacifist principles effectively ended her political career. After leaving Congress in 1943, Rankin remained active in many causes. On the eve of her death on May 18, 1973, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, her opposition to the Vietnam War had inspired Rankin to contemplate yet another run for the House.

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