Famous Montana Women: Highlighting the Only Female Member of Congress from Montana
March is Women's History Month, and Montana has had its fair share of women who have made their own mark on the world. Each week this month, we will highlight one woman who has left a brilliant mark on the state of Montana and our great country. This week, let's take a look at one of the most influential and important people in politics even to this day; Jeanette Rankin.
America's First Female Congresswoman
Jeanette Rankin was born in what was originally Montana Territory in 1880. Before she ran for Congress for the first time, Rankin revitalized Montana's support for Women's Suffrage in 1911 in front of the Montana legislature. Her platform was formed around providing women the same rights as men.
Rankin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916, winning the second at-large seat by 6,000 votes. As the first female Congresswoman, she made waves right away introducing a bill that would protect women's rights in the U.S. Constitution. In total, she served two terms from 1917 to 1919 and from 1941 to 1943.
A Controversial Pacifist
Rankin was a notable pacifist who historically voted against the United States declaring war on Germany during World War I and against declaring war on Japan during World War II. The latter vote was the only vote against the declaration, in which she famously declared, "As a woman, I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else."
The response from her colleagues was incredibly harsh, causing Rankin to hide in a phone booth outside of the House Republican Cloakroom until she got a security escort. Because of the media's outrage, and the horrible response from her peers, Rankin decided not to run for re-election.
Jeanette Rankin was such an important figure in American politics and women's rights. She will be remembered across the country and in Montana.