Topic: Jeannette Rankin

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Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was the first woman in the US Congress. A Republican, she was elected statewide in Montana in 1916 and again in 1940. A lifelong pacifist, she voted against the entry of the United States into both World War I and World War II, the only member of Congress to vote against the latter. She is the only woman to be elected to Congress from Montana.

Rankin was born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, the first of eleven children born to John Rankin, a rancher and builder who had immigrated from Canada, and Olive Pickering, a Yankee who was a former schoolteacher. Her parents were well-to-do and prominent in Montana affairs. Jeannette Rankin never married. She attended the University of Montana and graduated in 1902 with a bachelor of science degree in biology.

On a visit to Boston in 1904 she was horrified at slum conditions and decided to enter social work. She attended the New York School of Philanthropy (later part of Columbia University) in the 1908-1909 school year, and worked in Spokane, Washington. She studied social legislation at the University of Washington, where she became involved in the woman suffrage movement. Agreeing with Jane Addams, Rankin argued that slum conditions were worsened by women's inability to vote. In 1910 she returned to Montana to work for the Montana Equal Franchise Society. She declared that she was suspicious of governmental priorities set without women's voice and argued that voteless women were being taxed without representation, echoing the famous credo from the American Revolution. Rankin was hired as an organizer by the New York Women's Suffrage Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As a field secretary for NAWSA, Rankin directed a suffrage victory in North Dakota in 1913. She quit NAWSA in 1914 to return to Montana to help secure passage of woman suffrage there, which was achieved in 1914.

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