One hundred years ago today, Jeannette Rankin won the election to become Montana’s Congresswoman and the world’s first woman to occupy a seat in government. “Speak you mind even if your voice shakes.” Maggie Kuhn wrote those words long after 1916, but they capture Jeannette Rankin perfectly.
Imagine being 35, being the first female to stand in a crowd of all male representatives in a male-dominated society, and then imagine having to choose whether to cast the vote your conscience told you to, or the one your colleagues asked you to cast. Imagine being willing to risk career, friendships, fame, fortune and reputation to stand by one belief. Jeannette Rankin faced that crowd and made that choice not once, but twice – the second time all alone, surrounded by shouts and jeers.