Rankin was first woman in Congress

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories on important women in American history, in celebration of March as National Women’s History Month. Information was provided by members of the Kaua‘i County Committee on the Status of Women. For more information, or to inquire about joining the committee, call Pat Hunter-Williams, 639-0888, or the Office of the Mayor, 241-6300.

Paving the way for U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Neighbor Islands-rural O‘ahu, and many others after her, Jeannette Pickering Rankin (1880-1973) became the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress when Montana’s voters in 1916 supported her progressive ideas and anti-war politics, and elected her as a Republican.

She was one of the first women in the world elected to a parliamentary (law-making) body.

She was a lifelong feminist and pacifist, known also for organizing her state’s woman-suffrage (voting) campaign.

Her first vote in Congress was on the declaration of war against Germany, at the start of World War 1.

“I love my county,” Rankin said, “but I cannot vote for war,” she said, voting against the declaration.

She was true to her principles, but was not re-elected to Congress.

Twenty years later, Rankin was again voted into Congress, again on a pacifist platform. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor made war a popular issue, and this time hers was the only “no” vote against the war declaration.

Ridiculed by the press, Rankin’s convictions remained firm. “No international problem has ever been solved by the killing of young men,” she declared.


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