Jeannette Rankin, 1880-1973

  • Jeannette-Rankin-WWP

Woman Category: Activism & Feminism and Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: 19th Amendment Centennial Anniversary, Congresswoman, and Suffragist

  • HerStory

    The first woman to be elected to the US Congress, instrumental in promoting women’s right to vote and an anti-war activist.

    Born in Montana to a wealthy rancher and a teacher, oldest of seven siblings. She studied Biology at Montana State University, Social Work in New York School of Philanthropy, and Policy-Making in the University of Washington. After exploring various professional avenues – as a teacher, social worker, seamstress, and lobbyist, politician became her chosen career. In 1916, she was elected to the house of representative from Montana, becoming the first female in the Congress four years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, allowing women to vote.
    Rankin served twice as a Republican Representative of Montana in the House, the only woman from Montana. Both times she voted against US involvement in World Wars. She was an active advocate of pacifism, suffrage and social welfare up until her nineties. At the age of 87, she led a march of 5,000 women dressed in black, against the Vietnam War, named “Jeannette Rankin Brigade.”
    Rankin loved to travel, for work or pleasure, a spirit captured in her legendary diary entry: “It makes no difference where, just so you go! Go! Go! Remember, at the first opportunity, go.”
    In the United States, she lived and worked in various states, and owned a farm in rural Georgia, which she tried to turn into a female commune, and where she established the Georgia Peace Society. In her travels overseas, she visited New Zealand, Russia, Ireland, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Switzerland, and returned several times to her favorite destination – India.
    Her fame attracted to her several marriage proposals via mail, which she rejected. She is said to have had little time for romantic affairs and did not want to have children. Her friends turned her estate to a trust supporting education for low-income women above the age of 35 years.

    “I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote”

    “I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Her politically well-connected brother, Wellington, financed her election campaign.
    • After being the only one among 389 congressmen to vote against the U.S. declaration of war on Japan, she hid in a telephone booth from reporters until police came to escort her to her chambers.
    • She wore a purple dress that historic day.
    • There are more than five biographies published about her, a play and a film, titled “a Single Woman”.
    • She failed to pass the state teacher’s exam.
    • She did a correspondence course in furniture design.
    • She filed a lawsuit against a Macon-based newspaper that accused her of being a communist.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books about her


    * Susan B. Anthony Award by the National Organization for Women in New York City

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) 1st Woman in Congress

    Centennial of her swearing in is April 2nd. Learn More:,-Jeannette-(R000055)/

  • Photographed by L. Chase in 1917. Presented at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Photo credit - WWP team.