Wednesday, March 2, 2016



   Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to achieve a high government position when she was elected to Congress from the state of Montana in 1916.  Perhaps her greatest distinction was to be the only member of congress to vote against entry into either World War I or World War II.  She was practically attacked for the second vote and had to be escorted out by the police.

"I cannot vote for war."

    "Condemnation of her stand was immediate and intense, forcing Rankin briefly to huddle in a phone booth before receiving a police escort to her office.38 “I voted my convictions and redeemed my campaign pledges,” she told her constituents.39 “Montana is 100 percent against you,” wired her brother Wellington.40 In private, she told friends “I have nothing left but my integrity.”41 The vote essentially made the rest of Rankin’s term irrelevant. Having made her point, she only voted “present” when the House declared war on Germany and Italy.   She found that her colleagues and the press simply ignored her. She chose not to run for re-election in 1942, and her district replaced the isolationist Republican with an internationalist Democrat who had served in three branches of the military, Mike Mansfield.
   "Rankin continued to divide her time between Montana and Georgia in the years after she left Congress. India became one of her favorite excursions; she was drawn by the nonviolent protest tactics of Mohandas K. Gandhi. During the Vietnam War, she led the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, numbering 5,000, in a protest march on Wash­ington in January 1968 that culminated in the presentation of a peace petition to House Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts. Her 90th birthday in 1970 was celebrated in the Rayburn House Office Building with a reception and dinner. At the time of her death, on May 18, 1973, in Carmel, California, Rankin was considering another run for a House seat to protest the Vietnam War."


   Being for peace in the United States generally has meant that one is a communist. Here's more of Rankin's history:
   "From her base in Georgia, Jeannette Rankin became Field Secretary of the WILPF and lobbied for peace. When she left the WILPF she formed the Georgia Peace Society. She lobbied for the Women's Peace Union, working for an antiwar constitutional amendment. She left the Peace Union, and began working with the National Council for the Prevention of War. She also lobbied for American cooperation with the World Court and for labor reforms and an end to child labor, including working for passage of theSheppard-Towner Act of 1921, a bill she had originally introduced into Congress. Her work for a constitutional amendment to end child labor was less successful.

   "In 1935, when a college in Georgia offered her the position of Peace Chair, she was accused of being a Communist, and ended up filing a libel suit against the Macon newspaper that had spread the accusation. The court eventually declared her, as she said, "a nice lady."

   "In the first half of 1937, she spoke in 10 states, giving 93 speeches for peace. She supported the America First Committee, but decided that lobbying was not the most effective way to work for peace. By 1939, she had returned to Montana and was running for Congress again, supporting a strong but neutral America in yet another time of impending war. Her brother once again contributed financial support for her candidacy."

For a great book about Jeanette Rankin look for the one written by Gretchen Woelfle - and then buy it and give it to your neighborhood middle school:

   "Jeannette Rankin, born on the Montana frontier in 1880, lived long enough to speak her mind on national television in the 1970s. As the oldest of seven children, she learned to take charge early. She spoke up in the 1910s to persuade men to give women the vote. In 1916 she ran for the U.S. Congress and won the first congresswoman in history. She said yes to peace when most people wanted war. She said yes to social justice for workers, families, and children when most lawmakers said no. When she left Congress in 1943, people forgot about her, but she continued to work for what she believed. ''Rediscovered'' in the 1960s, Rankin became a heroine for feminists and Vietnam peace activists. At age eighty-seven she marched at the head of the five-thousand-women Jeannette Rankin Peace Parade in Washington, D.C. The times had caught up with Jeannette Rankin, political pioneer.

   "Gretchen Woelfle has collected photographs, newspaper clippings, campaign materials, and even hate mail to tell the remarkable story of a woman who played a dramatic part in many historic moments of twentieth-century American history."

   A first woman in congress, an only person to oppose entry into World War II, a tireless fighter for peace and human rights, Jeannette Rankin deserves to be well known and not written out of the history books.

House of Reps History -,-Jeannette-(R000055)/
Rankin foundation provides scholarships - - 
Bio Guide of the U.S. Congress - 
Cool Montana Stories - 
Women's History - 

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