April 02, 2015

Remembering Jeannette Rankin: Feminist, pacifist -- and Republican

John RobsonResident Historian

On April 2 1917 Jeannette Rankin (R MT) took her seat in Congress. Which might sound like trivia except she’s the first woman ever elected; it took a month for the men to agree to let her in.

But she’s memorable for more than just women’s rights.

A pacifist as well as a feminist, she joined dozens of colleagues in voting against war with Germany in 1917, lost her seat, spent two decades in activism before returning to Congress in 1940, cast the only vote against war with Japan after Pearl Harbor, retired facing certain defeat, resumed her activism, and became a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War in her final years.

She reminds us that even when people say debate has ended, there’s a consensus etc. there’s somebody with the courage to stand athwart history crying “Stop” who may be badly wrong but is not an ignorant lunatic. And that there actually are people in politics who stick by their beliefs regardless of public opinion.


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commented 2015-04-04 21:24:17 -0400
Hello John and thanks for the history.
Jeannette Rankin was my grandmother’s first Cousin. My Grandmother was born and lived in Ontario. I visited Jeannette 1969 when I was in my early 20s. Interesting that Jeannette voted no to war with Japan while my Grandmother had seven sons fighting in Europe. Grandmother said they did not have much in common.
commented 2015-04-03 11:44:36 -0400
As a few people have said, I truly love these historic showpieces you present John. They give a historic insight to people most know very little about and I, personally applaud the great work you do and cannot wait until Magna Carta comes out in September. Well done.
commented 2015-04-02 18:41:27 -0400
I wonder what she meant with that statement “Protection of Childhood”.
commented 2015-04-02 15:38:37 -0400
I support the idea of at least one of these types of reports a week, more if possible. I now can tell my liberal friends (?) another fact about the right side of history. thanks John
commented 2015-04-02 15:10:37 -0400
Yes, I’d like to see more.
I suppose it could be said that she had a small hand in women eventually getting to go into combat, since she didn’t agree with sending anyone if she wasn’t allowed to go herself. Women were involved, just not in combat roles. Except maybe for some of the field nurses, who were in the thick of it? Although I’m sure she wouldn’t want to be remembered linked to that change, since she was a pacifist. But she stood up for what she believed in with no thought of her personal political gain. And that IS admirable.
commented 2015-04-02 13:42:52 -0400
I really like these historical moments, John. I learn a lot. tnx