This tally sheet, documenting the House’s decision to declare war against Japan on December 8, 1941, is notable because of the lone “nay” vote. Despite pressure from her fellow Members, Montana Representative Jeannette Rankin, a lifelong pacifist who had voted against U.S. entry into World War I decades before, refused to vote yes, present, or to abstain from the vote entirely. She justified her position by remarking, “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” The decision cost her the support of colleagues and constituents and, ultimately, her House seat.
Article I of the Constitution places the authority for declaring war in the hands of Congress. Since its founding, the United States has declared war on 11 occasions spanning five conflicts. The first was against Great Britain in 1812 and the last occurred during World War II. Each of these war declarations has been preceded by a formal request from the President.