19-04-02 OTD Jeannette Rankin

April 2, 2021
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April 2, 1917

The first woman representative was sworn into Congress – three years before women were granted the constitutional right to vote.
“I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”

Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) when she was elected in 1916. Montana had granted women the right to vote two years earlier and she had gained notoriety, in part, as a suffragist. Today, 26 women serve in the U.S. Senate & 101 women serve in the House. Women make up nearly 24% of Congress. Rankin hoped, “We’re (women) half the people; we should be half the Congress.”

“As never before the Nation needs its women—needs the work of their hands and their hearts and their minds.”

Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin (R-MT) delivering a speech on women's right to vote. She helped pass a women's suffrage resolution in the House in 1918; the same resolution died in the Senate. She was not in office two years later when the 19th Amendment was officially adopted, altering the Constitution to grant women the right to vote.


  • Daughter of a rancher & school teacher.
  • Republican, suffrage leader & pacifist.
  • The only Member of Congress to vote against the entrance to World War I & World War II. Voted out of office each time: “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”
  • In 1973, just before her death at age 92, she contemplated a third run because of America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Rankin reportedly received applause as she was sworn into Congress. Later that evening, Pres. Wilson asked lawmakers to vote to declare war on Germany; Rankin was one of 50 lawmakers who voted "no." She said, "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war."

Jeannette Rankin:

by Jenna Lee,