Shady Grove, Rankin Rd & Mars Hill Rd, GA 30677
Rankin Ranch, Avalanche Gulch Rd, Townsend, MT 59644
Missoula City Cemetery, 2000 Cemetery Rd, Missoula, MT 59802
Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was an American politician and women's rights advocate, and the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana in 1916, and again in 1940. Rankin never married. While she maintained a lifelong, close friendship with the noted journalist and author Katherine Anthony, the women were never romantically involved (Anthony was in a longterm relationship with Elisabeth Irwin).[d] Rankin's biographers disagree on her sexual orientation, but generally agree that she was too consumed by her work to pursue committed personal relationships.
Each of Rankin's Congressional terms coincided with initiation of U.S. military intervention in the two World Wars. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of 50 House members who opposed the declaration of war on Germany in 1917. In 1941, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A suffragist during the Progressive Era, Rankin organized and lobbied for legislation enfranchising women in several states including Montana, New York, and North Dakota. While in Congress, she introduced legislation that eventually became the 19th Constitutional Amendment, granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. She championed a multitude of diverse women's rights and civil rights causes throughout a career that spanned more than six decades.
Rankin died on May 18, 1973, age 92, in Carmel, California. She bequeathed her estate, including the property in Watkinsville, Georgia, to help "mature, unemployed women workers". Her Montana residence, known as the Rankin Ranch, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The Jeannette Rankin Foundation (now the Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, awards annual educational scholarships to low-income women 35 and older across the United States. Beginning with a single $500 scholarship in 1978, the fund has since awarded more than $1.8 million in scholarships to more than 700 women.
Jeannette Rankin speaking from the balcony of the National American Woman Suffrage Association on April 2, 1917—the same day that President Wilson declared, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”
Rankin's portrait, by Sharon Sprung, in the House of Representatives Collection
A statue of Rankinn by Terry Mimnaugh, inscribed "I Cannot Vote For War", was placed in the United States Capitol's Statuary Hall in 1985. At its dedication, historian Joan Hoff-Wilson called Rankin "one of the most controversial and unique women in Montana and American political history". A replica stands in Montana's capitol building in Helena. In 1993, Rankin was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
In 2004, peace activist Jeanmarie Simpson produced and starred in the one-woman play A Single Woman, based on the life of Rankin, to benefit peace organizations. Simpson also starred in a film adaptation that was directed and produced by Kamala Lopez, narrated by Martin Sheen, and featuring music by Joni Mitchell. Opera America commissioned a song cycle about Rankin called Fierce Grace that premiered in 2017. In 2018, the Kalispell Brewing Company commissioned a mural on the side of its building in Kalispell, Montana, featuring a Rankin caricature and quotation.
Although her legacy rests almost entirely on her pacifism, Rankin told the Montana Constitutional Convention in 1972 that she would have preferred otherwise. "If I am remembered for no other act", she said, "I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote." As of 2019, Rankin remains the only woman ever elected to Congress from Montana.
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