The untold truth of the first woman elected to Congress - Grunge (2023)

The untold truth of the first woman elected to Congress - Grunge (1)

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VonDaniel Leonardo/Updated February 1, 2023 12:18 am M IT IS T

When it comes to history, everyone likes to talk about the “firsts”. You can probably name the first man to walk on the moon, the first African American president and, if you're a history buff, the first explorercircumnavigate the world. But can you name the first woman elected to the United States Congress? If you're like most people, the answer is probably no. But that's unfortunate because this woman, Jeannette Pickering Rankin, is a deeply fascinating historical figure.

As you will see, Jeannette Rankin had a career that spanned decades and left quite a legacy. From a young age, Rankin was involved in thewomen's suffrage movement— the drive to give women the right to vote. When Rankin became the first woman to be elected to Congress in 1916, she helped introduce legislation that later became the 19th Amendment, making women's suffrage a national reality. But for all her commitment to feminist causes, Rankin's career has been equally dedicated to pacifism, and her unwavering pacifism is perhaps what Rankin is best remembered for. In a series of two historic votes decades apart, Rankin remained committed to pacifism as the country cried for war, and became deeply unpopular as a result.

The fact that Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress in 1916, years before most American women could vote, is in itself amazing. But it's what Rankin did with her power and her unabashed commitment to her beliefs that makes her a true hero of American history.

Jeannette Rankin was the eldest of seven children and grew up on a ranch in Montana.

Vonthe United States House of Representatives, Jeannette Rankin was born on June 11, 1880 near Missoula, Montana Territory. (Montana did not become a state until 1889.) Rankin was the eldest of seven children (six girls and one boy in all) and spent her childhood on her family's ranch. Rankin, of course, was very busy; In addition to taking care of his younger siblings, he also had to help with the work in the fields,history reports. In addition, as a young woman in the 18th century, Rankin would also take on other household chores such as cleaning, sewing and cooking.

As a result, Rankin was aware from a young age that women had the same job as men but did not have the same voice. This imbalance is something Rankin would spend his life trying to correct.

But despite his many commitments, Rankin made time for his education. In 1902, Rankin graduated from Montana State University with a B.S. in biology. After college, Rankin became interested in the burgeoning field of social work, and in 1908 decided to study at the New York School of Philanthropy University of Washington - to continue studying social sciences.

Rankin became involved in the women's suffrage movement during college.

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At the University of Washington, Jeannette Rankin became active in the women's suffrage movement. FromThe United States. House of RepresentativesWhile attending the University of Washington, Rankin decided to become a student volunteer in a campaign for women's suffrage in Washington state. In 1910, these suffragettes won a major victory: Washington became the fifth state in the United States to give women the right to vote.

For her role in the Washington campaign, Jeannette Rankin was appointed Secretary of State for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In this position, Rankin received word that a resolution guaranteeing women's suffrage should be submitted to the legislature in his home state of Montana. However, Rankin discovered that the resolution "was actually part of an elaborate hoax". Undeterred, Rankin was able to convince a Montana legislature to introduce the resolution anyway.

In February 1911, Rankin was the first woman to address the Montana legislature when she voted in favor of the suffrage resolution. Partly due to Rankin's speech, the resolution received majority support, but not the two-thirds support it would need to pass. Nonetheless, Rankin's activism revived the suffrage movement in Montana. As a result of the women's continued campaign, the question of women's suffrage was put to a public vote in 1914; Montana men voted for women's suffrage, making Montana the 11th state to give women the right to vote.

In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to be elected to the United States Congress.

Jeannette Rankin's role in Montana's suffrage movement brought her much publicity. Rankin decided to capitalize on this and in July 1916 announced his candidacy for one of the two seats in the Montana At-Large House.the United States House of Representativesreports. If elected, Rankin would become the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

Women's campaigns across the West stole most of the national attention from Rankin. However, Rankin remained popular in his home state. She fought as a progressive Republican on a platform that included women's suffrage nationwide, child protection legislation, alcohol prohibition and US neutrality in World War I. Rankin took a grassroots approach, meeting with individual voters and small groups throughout Montana.

With the help of his brother Wellington, who had become an established member of the Montana Republican Party, Rankin easily secured the party's nomination for the August primary. Then came the general election, held on November 7, 1916.through history. The field was full of candidates; The first two to receive votes would win the two available seats in the House of Representatives. When the results were tallied, Rankin had received the second most votes, earning her Montana's second vacant seat and the title of "first woman elected to the United States Congress." "Not only am I going to represent the women of Montana, I'm going to represent the women of the country, and I have a lot of work to do," Rankin said.

In his first week in office, Rankin voted against United States entry into World War I.

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through history, Jeannette Rankin took her seat in Congress on April 2, 1917. That same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress "urging a declaration of war against Germany." Then,First World Warit had been in turmoil for nearly three years, and the United States had managed to maintain its neutrality. But forthe United States House of Representatives, President Wilson felt that Germany's submarine warfare and attacks on merchant shipping had gone too far.

Rankin found himself in a difficult position; She was a committed pacifist and had said so during her campaign, but the American public was very pro-war. Rankin's colleagues in the suffragette movement urged her not to be too outspoken in her pacifism, fearing that she (and female suffragettes in general) might appear unpatriotic. Similarly, Rankin's brother Wellington urged them to vote for war.

But when the war resolution was voted on April 6, Rankin voted "no." Not surprisingly, the resolution still passed by a large majority: 373 to 50. After the vote, Rankin was widely criticized; a Montana newspaper likened her to "a victim of the Emperor" and "a crying schoolgirl," and even America's National Woman Suffrage Association distanced herself from her. But Rankin did not regret his decision; "I felt like when the first woman had the chance to say no to the war for the first time, she should do it," she later recalled.according to American heritage.

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As a congressman, Rankin fought for workers' and women's rights.

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Just five days into her tenure, Jeannette Rankin had already become a controversial figure in Washington; Her pacifism, added to her gender, made her a lightning rod for criticism from the media and even from her peers. But Rankin had a full two-year term ahead of him, and she couldn't let the slur overwhelm her. And on the positive side, e.gthe United States House of RepresentativesRankin received letters of support from many of his constituents in Montana. So Rankin stayed focused. She dedicated her tenure in Congress to a variety of causes, most notably protecting the rights of women, children, and workers.

In June 1917, two months into Rankin's tenure, a mining disaster occurred in his home state of Montana, killing 168 miners in a fire. The remaining workers went on strike against the Anaconda Copper Mining company, and Rankin openly supported the striking workers. Rankin went inside to denounce working conditions at Anaconda and similar companies; Rankin even suggested that the government take control of the Anaconda mines, both to improve working conditions there and to provide material for the war effort. Rankin's proposal was defeated, but he gained more support among working-class voters, whom he continued to campaign for during his tenure.

But as the only woman in the country with a single vote in Congress, Rankin also used her unique position to further advance the women's suffrage movement.

Jeannette Rankin introduced the legislation that would become the 19th Amendment

During her first year in office, Jeannette Rankin supported a proposal by California Representative John Edward Raker to create a House Committee on Women's Suffrage. This resolution was passed and the committee was formed on September 24, 1917 with Jeannette Rankin as a senior memberthe United States House of Representatives.

According to the story, the main objective of the House Suffrage Committee was to pass a constitutional amendment to guarantee women's suffrage across the country. This amendment was drafted and presented to the House in January 1918, with Jeannette Rankin personally opening the debate. "How are we supposed to... explain the importance of democracy when the same Congress that voted for war to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give the women of our country that small measure of democracy?" asked Rankin.

The proposed amendment narrowly received the required two-thirds in the House of Representatives by a vote of 274 to 136. According to the House of Representatives, women in the House bleachers cheered as it marked the first time a resolution on suffrage had been passed in both of the Houses. Congress. Unfortunately, the same resolution died in the Senate. In 1919, a year after Rankin left Congress, the same suffrage resolution was passed "an overwhelming majority" by both houses of Congress. After being ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1920, the resolution officially became the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in the United States.

Rankin lost his Senate race in 1918 but spent two decades campaigning on anti-war causes.

Jeannette Rankin's time in the house was limited. 1917 e.gthe United States House of Representatives, Montana's At-Large House seats were replaced by congressional districts, with the one held by Rankin being overwhelmingly Democratic. Rankin knew she could never win re-election to the House of Representatives (and suspected the constituency re-election was specifically designed to keep her out), but Rankin refused to walk away that easily. Instead, in 1918, he announced his candidacy for the Montana Senate seat. However, perhaps because of his still controversial pacifism, Rankin narrowly missed out on the Republican Party nomination. Instead, he accepted the nomination of an obscure third party and still garnered more than 20% of the vote in November's general election.

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Rankin was no longer an elected official, but that didn't stop her from remaining active in politics. After the end of World War I, Rankin acted on behalf of various anti-war groups trying to maintain a lasting peace. he traveled to Switzerland in 1919 for a peace conference. Rankin also lobbied for Congress to pass a welfare bill aimed, among other things, at reducing infant mortality.

In 1924, Rankin moved to a farm near Athens, Georgia, where he lived a simple, low-tech life. However, Rankin continued his activism and founded the Georgia Peace Society in the women of Georgia. Living in Georgia enabled Rankin to live in Washington, D.C. lobbying more effectively than if he had stayed in Montana.

In 1940, Jeannette Rankin was re-elected to Congress.

However, after two decades of tireless work, Jeannette Rankin found that lobbying was not enough to really advance the causes she cared about, especially anti-war issues. This became particularly evident in the late 1930s, when it became clear that the United States was likely to be dragged into another world war.

I know becausethe United States House of RepresentativesJeannette Rankin returned home to Montana in 1940 and announced her second run for the house. Rankin's 1940 campaign followed a similar basic strategy to his 1916 campaign, with Rankin speaking in 52 of his district's 56 high schools, according to the book "Jeannette Rankin: America's Conscience." And again, despite the brothers' increasingly divergent views, Rankin's campaign was funded and supported by his well-connected brother, Wellington.

Rankin challenged then-Rep. Jacob Thorkelson, an outspoken anti-Semite, in the Republican primary and won. Before the general election, Rankin received support from many well-known progressives, including New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. On election day, Jeannette Rankin defeated Democratic candidate Jerry O'Connell with 54% of the vote. And when Rankin took her seat in 1941, she was no longer the only woman in Congress; She was now one of seven women to serve in the House of Representatives,through history.

Rankin was the only congressman to vote against United States entry into World War II.

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Twenty-two years after her departure, Jeannette Rankin was back in Congress. And as in his first term, Rankin once again advocated pacifism at a time when warfare was much more popular. Throughout 1941, one of the biggest questions in Congress was whether the United States should enter World War II on behalf of the Allies. But in the last month of this year the question was put to rest. On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy carried out a sneak attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harborthe national park service. When the message reached Washington, it was essentially unanimous: The United States must declare war on Japan and enter World War II.

But it wasn't like thatcompleteunanimously. When Congress considered a resolution declaring war on Japan the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, one voice spoke out against the war: Jeannette Rankin. As floor debate on the resolution opened, Rankin repeatedly asked for credit to speak, but was declared out of order by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and asked by others to be seated, e.gthe United States House of Representatives. When it came time to vote, some of Rankin's colleagues urged her to vote for war, or at least abstain, in the interests of national unity. But Rankin refused to give up his pacifist beliefs. When the votes were tallied, the Senate voted unanimously to go to war with Japan, while the House of Representatives voted 388-1.

Jeannette Rankin's opposition to World War II ended her political career

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Vonthe United States House of RepresentativesOn the day she voted against declaring war on Japan, Jeannette Rankin said, "As a woman, I cannot go to war and refuse to send anyone else." Her anti-World War II vote made her despicable. The Associated Press reported that Rankin's "no" vote was greeted with "a chorus of hisses and jeers" in the House of Representatives. When Rankin left the room after the vote, she was surrounded by other politicians and members of the press and had to take refuge from the crowd in a phone booth until Capitol police could arrive and evacuate her. In the days that followed, Rankin received angry telegrams and phone calls, some from his Montana constituents. One such call came from his own brother, Wellington, who told him that "Montana is 110 percent against him."

With more than a year left in Congress, Rankin's political career was over. Two days later, he chose to be "present" when Congress declared war on Germany and Italy. In the months that followed, Rankin was shunned by her peers and the press.

Rankin tried to make the most of his remaining tenure by focusing primarily on combating war fraud and protecting freedom of expression. But when his term ended, Rankin knew he had no future in politics; she decided not to run for re-election.

Rankin remained an ardent pacifist and led demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

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Michael Oreskes/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After leaving Congress, Jeannette Rankin divided her time between her homes in Georgia and Montana. Fromthe United States House of RepresentativesRankin also spent his retirement from politics traveling, including to India, where he studied the anti-war teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the United States, Rankin was a role model for generations of young pacifists. In the 1960s, Rankin openly criticized the Vietnam War, and although he was 80 at the time, Rankin decided to mobilize an anti-war movement against it.Von American HeritageIn 1968, Rankin led 5,000 women dressed in black, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Brigade, in a march against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. It was one of the largest women's marches the country has ever seen. In 1972, the National Organization for Women named Rankin the "world's foremost living feminist," according to the House of Representatives.

That same year, at age 92, Jeannette Rankin considered running for Congress for a third time to further spread her anti-Vietnam War message. However, heart and throat problems prevented Rankin from realizing a final nomination in Congress. Later in life, Rankin was asked if he regretted the 1941 anti-war vote that ended his political career. "Never," she replied, becauseBiographer Mary O'Brien. "If you're against war, you're against war no matter what. It's the wrong way to try to settle a dispute."

Jeannette Rankin died in 1973 at the age of 92.

VonLos New York Times, Jeannette Rankin died on March 18, 1973 at the age of 92. Rankin had lived an incredibly busy life, from early struggles to women's suffrage, two terms in Congress, tireless lobbying, and activism. Rankin never married but was "in a lifelong intimate relationship" with journalist Katherine Anthony.Para-Politician. As a result, historians have debated Rankin's sexual orientation, but the general consensus is that she was too busy for a long-term romance.

When Rankin died, he donated his estate to help "unemployed and mature working women." Today theJeannette Rankin Scholarship Fund for Womenthis was established by their original gift reports that they have awarded $3 million in grants to over 1,000 women.

To date, Jeannette Rankin is the only woman elected to Congress from the state of Montana.through history. Still, Rankin paved the way for hundreds of women into American politics in the 20th and 21st centuries. Jeannette Rankin left an impressive legacy of pacifism and feminism throughout her decades-long career. Fromdas Bill of Rights InstituteIn 1972, Rankin stated, "If I'm not remembered for another act, I want to be remembered as the only woman who voted to give women the right to vote."

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