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First woman in Congress added to Statuary Hall

By
MARY BETH FRANKLIN

WASHINGTON -- Jeannette Rankin, the first woman member of Congress and its only member to vote against both World Wars, has taken her place among a select and diverse group of distinguished Americans honored in the Capitol's Statuary Hall collection.

A bronze, 8 -foot sculpture of Rankin, inscribed with the words 'I can't vote for war,' was unveiled Wednesday in a Capitol Hill ceremony.

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House Speaker Thomas O'Neill, Montana Gov. Ted Schwinden and all four members of Montana's congressional delegation praised Rankin, a Missoula, Mont., native, for her courage and independence.

The latest addition brings the Statuary Hall collection to 94 statues -- 88 men and six women -- that individual states have chosen to represent them. Each state can send up to two statues to the Capitol.

Thirty-eight of the statues are located in Statuary Hall, the original House of Representatives, and the rest are scattered throughout the Capitol. Rankin's statue, created by Montana artist Terry Minmaugh, will reamin temporarily in the Rotunda where it was unveiled and later be moved to a permanent spot in the Capitol.

Rankin, and Montana's other statue of artist Charles Marion Russell, joins a diverse group that includes the nation's first president, George Washington; the first president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis; the head of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Frances Willard; humorist Will Rogers, and Hawaiian King Kamehameha.

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Elected to represent Montana in 1916, Rankin was seated in the House of Representatives when most of the nation's women were still unable to vote. On April 6, 1917, four days after taking office, she cast her first vote -- agaanst the United States' entrance into World War I.

Twenty-four years later, as she began her second term as a representative of Montana, she cast the only ballot against the United States' participation in World War II -- a controversial move that spelled an end to her political career.

'As a woman, I can't go to war and I refuse to send anyone else,' Rankin said as she cast her historic vote.

t the time, a New York Times editorial said her vote against war demonstrated 'the feminine incapacity for straight reason.'

A lifelong pacifist, she was still going strong in 1968 at the age of 88, leading the Jeannette Rankin Brigade of 3,000 women to the Capitol to protest the war in Vietnam.

During her two terms in the House, she was a champion of women's rights, introducing legislation to give women the vote and endorsing government-sponsored health programs for women and children.

She died in 1973, one month shy of her 93rd birthday.

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Schwinden called her a 'truly remarkable woman'. O'Neill said she 'opened the doors of political opportunity for all American Women.'

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