- NAME: Jeannette Rankin
- OCCUPATION: Women's Rights Activist, U.S. Representative
- BIRTH DATE: June 11, 1880
- DEATH DATE: May 18, 1973
- EDUCATION: University of Montana, New York School of Philanthropy (later part of Columbia University), University of Washington
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Missoula, Montana
- PLACE OF DEATH: Carmel, California
- Full Name: Jeannette Pickering Rankin
Best Known For
Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She helped pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, and was a committed pacifist.
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Jeannette Rankin was born near Missoula, Montana on June 11, 1880. She successfully fought for a woman's right to vote in Washington State and Montana and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. The first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, during her two separate terms Rankin helped pass the 19th Amendment and was the only Congressperson to vote against both WWI and WWII. She died in 1973.
Politician, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and social activist Jeannette Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, near Missoula, Montana. Jeannette Rankin made history as the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. One of seven children, she was the daughter of a rancher and a schoolteacher. After earning a degree in biology in 1902, Rankin followed in her mother's footsteps briefly, working as a teacher. Jeanette Rankin tried several more careers, including seamstress and social worker.
Jeannette Rankin found her calling in the women's suffrage movement. While living in Washington State, she became active in the drive to amend that state's constitution to give women the right to vote. The measure passed in 1911, and Rankin later returned home to Montana to win the right to vote for the women of her home state. The voters of Montana granted women the right to vote in 1914.
Her years as a social activist helped Jeannette Rankin in her 1916 run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Although it was a very close race, she won the election, becoming the first woman to serve in Congress. This accomplishment is even more miraculous, considering this was a time when many women still did not have the right to vote.
An ardent pacifist, Rankin voted against the United States entering World War I. During the war, she fought for the rights of women working in the war effort. Rankin also created women's rights legislation and helped pass the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Congress, granting women the right to vote.
After her two-year term ended in 1919, Jeannette Rankin focused much of her energies on her pacifism. That same year, she served as a delegate to the Women's International Conference for Peace in Switzerland along with such other noted figures as Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Alice Hamilton and Lillian Wald. She later became an active member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), serving in several key positions.
Jeannette Rankin made a return to politics in 1939. Running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, she won the election in part based on her antiwar position. Even the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, could not dissuade Rankin from her pacifist stance and she voted against entering the war. By this time, much of the public's antiwar sentiment had given way to anger and outrage over the attack on U.S. soil.
Leaving office in 1943, Jeannette Rankin spent much of her time traveling. She also continued to work to further her pacifist beliefs, speaking out against U.S. military actions in Korea and Vietnam. She died on May 18, 1973, in Carmel, California. This groundbreaking politician was the only legislator to vote against both world wars, reflecting her deep commitment to pacifism. She is also remembered for tireless efforts on behalf of women's suffrage.
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