Jeannette Rankin: First Woman Elected to Congress

On November 7, 1916, nearly four years before the Nineteenth Amendment gave American women the right to vote nationally, Jeannette Rankin was elected to represent Montana in the United States House of Representatives. Images of Rankin in the Prints & Photographs Division’s collections portray her both in her role as congresswoman and as activist for women’s rights.

There is no shortage of photos of Rankin — who ran on a platform that included expanding voting rights for women nationally — together with fellow suffragists. The photograph below, taken in front of the National American Woman Suffrage Association headquarters in Washington, shows Rankin standing next to Carrie Chapman Catt, possibly on the day of her inauguration in 1917.

Miss Janette [i.e., Jeannette] Rankin. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1909 and 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.20183

Miss Janette [i.e., Jeannette] Rankin. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1909 and 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.20183

Rankin can be seen leaving the White House in the following photo taken in 1917.

<em>RANKIN, JEANETTE. REP. FROM MONTANA, 1917-1919. LEAVING WHITE HOUSE </em>. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.09163

RANKIN, JEANETTE. REP. FROM MONTANA, 1917-1919. LEAVING WHITE HOUSE . Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.09163

Images of Rankin are not limited to photographs. The following cartoon was made by artist Nina Allender for a March 1917 issue of The Suffragist, published by the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Given the title, “Come to Mother,” the drawing shows a little girl with “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” (colloquial phrasing for what would become the Nineteenth Amendment) written on her skirt, running to clasp Rankin’s hands. The note in pencil, reading “When Miss Rankin Came to Congress,” did not appear in the published version.

"Come to Mother," Drawing by Nina Allender, 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.69097

“Come to Mother,” Drawing by Nina Allender, 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.69097

Rankin served two terms in Congress, the first from 1917 to 1919 and the second from 1941 to 1943, and was in a position to vote on U.S. military intervention in both World War I and World War II. A pacifist, Rankin voted in the minority in both cases not to enter either conflict, and in the decades between she worked with several pacifist organizations. In the photo below, taken before her second term in Congress, Rankin argues before the House Naval Affairs Committee against building military defenses in Guam. Although her positions on U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts were not popular, Rankin’s convictions were consistent. She continued to mobilize against U.S. involvement in foreign wars, organizing against the Vietnam War and continuing to inspire women’s rights activists throughout her lifetime.

<em>First woman congress member protests increase in nation's armed forces. Washington, D.C., Feb. 7. Jeanette Rankin, first woman member of Congress, told the Naval Affairs Committee for the House today that there is 'much technical opinion within the Navy Department against the fortification of Guam as there is for it', and that the reason that the committee had not heard such opinions is because, 'announcements of policy come only from the top.' Miss Rankin voted against U.S. entrance into the World War, 2-7- 39. </em>Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1939. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hec.26014/

First woman congress member protests increase in nation’s armed forces. Washington, D.C., Feb. 7. Jeanette Rankin, first woman member of Congress, told the Naval Affairs Committee for the House today that there is ‘much technical opinion within the Navy Department against the fortification of Guam as there is for it’, and that the reason that the committee had not heard such opinions is because, ‘announcements of policy come only from the top.’ Miss Rankin voted against U.S. entrance into the World War, 2-7- 39. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1939. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hec.26014/

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