Unknown artist. Jeanette Rankin, 1917. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.
b. 1880, Missoula, Montana; d. 1973, Carmel, California
A feminist and an uncompromising pacifist, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Starting in 1912, Rankin campaigned for suffrage in sixteen different states and in 1914 became legislative secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. It was at this time that she met her lifelong partner, Katherine Anthony. Elected to Congress in 1916, Rankin worked for peace—voting "no" on U.S. entry into World War I—and also dedicated her office to the causes of suffrage, civil liberties, birth control, child welfare, and equal pay. After losing a reelection bid due to her unpopular antiwar stance, Rankin continued to work for women's rights and peace, two issues she believed were interrelated. In 1940, she won another seat in the House and was the only legislator to vote against war with Japan. When her term ended, she worked for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the American Civil Liberties Union. In Washington, D.C., in 1968, at the age of eighty-seven, she led 5,000 women—the "Jeannette Rankin Brigade"—in a protest against the Vietnam War.
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