“…the first time the first woman had a chance to say no against war she should say it.”
Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) was the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, and a native of Missoula, Montana. She was elected in 1916, before women nationwide had the right to vote. In 1917 she joined a handful of representatives who voted against entry into World War I asserting, despite harsh criticism and certain damage to her career, that “the first time the first woman had a chance to say no against war she should say it.”
In 1941 she bravely stood alone in Congress in voting against entry into World War II, but she did not stand alone in society in her opposition to institutional violence and war.
Her stand against war as a viable resolution to international conflicts provoked questions on the basic assumptions about peace, war, and conflict, which we continue to grapple with today.
Rankin’s staunch opposition to war made her a spokesperson for veteran’s rights, as well, since she recognized them as pawns in the games of politicians.
It was she who first introduced the GI Bill to Congress, which guaranteed post-discharge education and other benefits to those who served in the military.
Her long career was also distinguished by her deep commitment to the country’s women, poor, and its children. She put forth an alternate vision for this country as one which championed peace and justice. She worked tirelessly in opposition to war and oppression by attending rallies, and by giving speeches in person and on television into her 90s.
The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center is proud to carry the name of this pioneer Montanan whose life’s work exemplified a steadfast devotion to peace, justice, and democratic equality.
more about Jeannette Rankin:
- Jeannette Rankin Foundation
- National Women’s Hall of Fame
- Jone Johnson Lewis. “About Jeannette Rankin.” About Women’s History
- Peace Is A Woman’s Job
- A Single Woman, the movie
Biographies of Jeannette Rankin
- Flight of the Dove: The Story of Jeannette Rankin by Kevin Giles
- Jeannette Rankin: Bright Star in the Big Sky by Mary Barmeyer O’Brien
- Jeannette Rankin, America’s Conscience by Norma Smith
- A Heart in Politics: Jeannette Rankin and Patsy T. Mink (Women Who Dared) by Sue Davidson