“…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 AND HER LEGACY:
University of Montana’s Archives and Special Collections has a collection of oral history interviews that were conducted by Dawn Walsh for the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. The interviewees were former and current members of the Missoula Women for Peace and detail their interest and activities related to peace activism. We have just learned that those interviews (both the audio and transcripts) are now available online at this link https://scholarworks.umt.edu/missoulawomenforpeace_oralhistory/.
- 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
- First Lady for Peace by Jackie Beyer Get the book in the Downloads section.
- Kevin Giles One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story
Biographies of Jeannette Rankin
- One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story 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