Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Members of the 65th Congress (1917–1919) pose for a group photo before the Capitol steps. Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, is seated in the center.
On this date, 264 Members of the 65th Congress
(1917–1919), half of them standing and the other half sitting, gathered for a group photo on the East Front of the United States Capitol. Photographers had been capturing the likenesses of Members and Senators since before the Civil War, but this image—taken more than 50 years later as America entered World War I—is notable for a handful of reasons. To start, it was a panoramic photo, meaning it used sophisticated lens technology to stretch a curved subject into a straight line. More importantly, the image features the first woman elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin
of Montana, seated front and center one chair over from Speaker Champ Clark
of Missouri. A handful of former and future Speakers also appear in the photo, looking stoically at the camera: Joe Cannon
of Illinois, Joseph Wellington Byrns
of Tennessee, and Nicolas Longworth
of Ohio. Behind the row of seated Members, a second line of 142 standing Members fills out the image. In the back row, Hawaiian Delegate Prince Kuhio Kalanianaole
appears to lean toward the camera. And off to the side, almost as if alone, the Resident Commissioners from the Philippines, Jaime de Veyra
and Teodoro Yangco
, and Félix Córdova Dávila
, the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico, stand together. Together with Delegate Kuhio, the four non-voting statutory representatives from America’s territories represented the interests of nearly 12 million people. Later that day, after “a large gathering of sightseers, including many men in uniform” witnessed the photo, debate in the House focused on ways to finance the Great War and to support those same soldiers who watched the history-making photo being taken.