Historical Women Who Rocked: Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin: suffragist, political leader and activist. June 11, 2013 marks Rankin’s 125th birthday. She was born in 1880 near Missoula, Montana, to schoolteacher Olive Pickering Rankin and Canadian immigrant carpenter, and rancher John Rankin.

Jeanette Rankin holds an esteemed place in United States history as the first woman elected to the House of Representatives and the only member of Congress to vote against two world wars. Rankin made a name for herself as a skilled lobbyist, organizer, politician, and pacifist. She fused her suffrage and pacifist leanings whiles organizing Washington’s suffrage campaign. As a lobbyist for NAWSA, Rankin organized and campaigned for woman suffrage in over fifteen states. Rankin successfully ran as Montana’s Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in 1917. She distinguished herself as a pacifist and a sponsor of protective legislation for women and children. She was the only congressperson to vote against the United States’ involvement in both World War I and World War II. Montanans were disillusioned with her pacifist stance and would not reelect her again until 1940. In the meantime Rankin worked for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the National Consumer’s League, and National Council for the Prevention of War. After World War II she continued her pacifist work and went to India to study Ghandi’s philosophies. She espoused antiwar sentiments again in the 1960s during the Vietnam War and made a final reemergence into national politics. Throughout her career Rankin compromised neither her belief in woman’s rights nor pacifism.

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