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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 13–24 of 28 results

A Century of Women in Congress

On November 7, 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the United States Congress. “I may be the first woman member of Congress,” she observed upon her election. “But I won’t be the last.”

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Congresswoman Huck Goes to Prison

Winnifred Huck at Her Desk
“I was locked in the Cleveland police station,” wrote Winnifred Huck. “My eyes were getting used to the darkness, and I thought that soon I could see as well as the rats whose green eyes shown from the corners of the room.” In 1925, the former Illinois Congresswoman decided to satisfy her curiosity about prisons, rehabilitation, and working-class life across the United States—by becoming an inmate.
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Masquerading as Miss Rankin

When Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri adjourned the 64th Congress sine die at noon on March 4, 1917, the House dissolved into customary revelry. Members and visitors joined in throaty renditions of “Dixie” and “The Old Oaken Bucket,” belting out lyrics until the chorus grew hoarse. When the crowd lurched into “How Dry I Am,” the “Wets” in the chamber, those Members who wanted to keep alcohol legal and who were on the verge of failing to block Prohibition, sang with particular gusto.
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The First Congresswoman’s First Day: April 2, 1917

It was only natural that Jeannette Rankin of Montana repeatedly made history on April 2, 1917, the day she was sworn in as the first woman to serve in Congress.
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Jeannette Rankin: “I Cannot Vote for War”

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, voted against United States entry into World War I in 1917 and did not run for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1918. Ever since, historians have assumed that Rankin’s no vote cost the Congresswoman her seat in Congress.
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Women Take the Spotlight

Rankin and Other Congresswomen
On January 6, 1941, Jeannette Rankin attended a Joint Session of Congress just days after being sworn in to a second term in the House. For Rankin, who’d first entered Congress 24 years earlier at the opening of the 65th Congress in 1917, the scene must have been familiar—war clouds gathering on the horizon, a dramatic presidential address, and a whirl of press attention, much of it paid to her return and, remarkably, still focused on her gender.
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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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#10in10: 100 Years of Women in the House Collection

For 10 days beginning on April 2, our Twitter feed exhibited women represented in the House Collection. @USHouseHistory used #10in10 to highlight 10 decades’ worth of objects from the House Collection. Keep reading to find out which era was the most popular on Twitter.
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"The Most Gallant Lady from Massachusetts"

Edith Nourse Rogers’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman portrait was unveiled on July 27, 1950. Rogers was exceptional in many ways, she was only the second woman—after her colleague Mary Norton of New Jersey—to have a chairman portrait hung in the House.
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Jeannette Rankin’s Struggle for Democracy in Industry

On July 8, 1917, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, addressed a crowd of more than 3,000 at Braves Field in Boston, Massachusetts, just a stone’s throw from the Charles River. On stage, Rankin resembled “a college girl, of medium height, slight of build, with large dark eyes and an expressive face,” the Boston Globe reported, adding that the “woman Congressman” has a “sort of girlish laughing appeal in her voice.” But the newspaper was quick to make clear that “there is the weight of thought and logic in her words,” and proceeded to provide a window into the priorities occupying the Congresswoman in the summer of 1917.
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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. Read about this and other petitions sent by women to Congress requesting assistance with issues of both national and personal importance.
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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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