90th Anniversary of First Woman Elected to US Congress

90th Anniversary of First Woman Elected to US Congress

JRF | Nov 06 2006 |

90th Anniversary of Jeannette Rankin’s election to U.S. Congress


30th Anniversary of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation

November 2006

November 6, 2006 is the 90th Anniversary of Jeannette Rankin’s election to United States Congress. Women’s suffrage had passed in Montana and voters elected Rankin, the sole Republican to win in Montana in 1916. Party affiliation was not her only distinction because Jeannette Rankin joined the previously all-male Congress as its first woman representative. American women finally had a voice in federal government. A strong proponent of women’s and children’s rights, Rankin introduced legislation seeking an eight-hour work day for women, equal wages for equal work, and a federal suffrage amendment. Throughout her lifetime, she was a tireless voice against oppression, dedicating herself to peace and freedom. In 1972, she was selected to be the first member of the Susan B. Anthony Hall of Fame, an honor established to recognize outstanding leaders for women’s rights. Among those celebrating with her at her induction were Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm. Rankin passed away on May 18, 1973.

Jeannette Rankin’s Legacy

Rankin bequeathed a portion of her Watkinsville, Georgia estate to assist “mature, unemployed women workers.” The Jeannette Rankin Foundation (JRF) was established to assist low-income women toward their educational goals. Proceeds from Rankin’s estate, $16,000, became the seed money for the foundation, which has been helping low-income women ages 35 and older since it was chartered in 1976. JRF awarded its first educational grant of $500 to one woman in 1978; in 2006, JRF is awarding grants of $2000 each to 78 women from across the United States. To date, 494 women are the recipients of 533 grants totalling more than $848,000. The Jeannette Rankin Foundation is proud that Rankin’s legacy lives on through the lives of JRF recipients, women who have a vision of how their education will benefit themselves, their families, and their communities.

About Poverty, Women and Education

  • In the U.S. in 2005, the median earnings for men were $41,965, while the earnings for women were $32,168. (2005 U.S. Census data)
  • Women’s ability to earn a living wage increases drastically with a college education.

    • Women who do not complete high school earn a median income of $13,076.
    • Women high school graduates earn a median income of $20,179.
    • Women who earn Associate’s degrees increase their median earnings to $25,736.
    • Women who complete Bachelor’s degrees achieve median earnings of $36,250.
      (2005 U.S. Census data)
  • Nearly 400,000 more women are living in poverty in 2005 than in 2004. Women in poverty reached 2.1 million in 2005.
  • Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic.

    • In 2004, 28.4% of households headed by single women were living in poverty.
    • By contrast, 13.5% of households headed by single men lived in poverty and 5.5% of married-couple households lived in poverty.


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Two Georgians receive JRF scholarship

JRF | Jul 01 2006 |

Seventy-eight low-income women from across the United States will each receive the Jeannette Rankin Foundation’s annual $2,000 grants, the Athens-based group announced Thursday evening.

The organization recognized those women this week, featuring their names on the program for the Jeannette Rankin Foundation Annual Dinner, held Thursday night. The grants will assist low-income women who are U.S. citizens and have enrolled themselves in accredited schools to complete their educations.

The foundation was started in 1976 and gave its first grant, which was $500, in 1978.

In 2006, the foundation’s goal was to raise enough money through donations to accommodate 70 women from the more than 900 grant applicants.

The foundation was able to raise enough money, though, to fund 78 grants, said Sue Lawrence, the group’s executive director.

The foundation gave $2,000 grants to 56 women in 2005 and 45 in 2004.

Lawrence attributes the organization’s ability to accommodate a greater number of applicants to both business sponsors and individual donors who understand the importance of education in helping low-income women.

“This organization is really fortunate and blessed,” she said. “The foundation would not be where it is today without (donors).”

The group gave grants to women from across the country, including Maine, Florida, California and North Dakota.

The foundation chose at least two women from Georgia, one of whom currently is enrolled at Athens Technical College, and another from Augusta, Lawrence said.

The foundation will put all the names of its 2006 recipients on its Web site as early as today.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 070106


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Pi Beta Phi raises funds for worthy cause

Pi Beta Phi raises funds for worthy cause

JRF | Apr 05 2006 |

Pi Beta Phi sorority raised over $5700 for the Jeannette Rankin Foundation (JRF) with their annual spring dart tournament. This year’s tournament was held on April 5 at The Georgia Theater and featured live music and door prizes.

The mission of Pi Beta Phi is to promote friendship, develop women of intellect and integrity, cultivate leadership potential, and enrich lives through community service. In fulfilling this mission, the University of Georgia sorority has named JRF as one of their philanthropies.

JRF awards grants to help low-income women, ages 35 and older, earn a college education. Since 1976, JRF has awarded grants to 442 women across the U.S. The recipients of JRF grants are hardworking, motivated women who know the value of an education in breaking the cycle of poverty.

The funds raised by Pi Beta Phi were presented to JRF board member and UGA law professor Peter Appel at a presentation on April 24.


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State Chief Justice Lauds Foundation’s Namesake

State Chief Justice Lauds Foundation’s Namesake

JRF | Mar 31 2006 |

Thirty years ago, shortly after Jeannette Rankin died, five Athens-area women sat down to decide how to follow her instructions to help adult women.

Started with $16,000 in proceeds from the sale of the Oconee County property where America’s first Congresswoman lived late in life, the Jeannette Rankin Foundation gave out its first $500 scholarship in 1978.

Less than three decades later, the foundation has awarded 525 grants – altogether $830,000 – to women over 35 years old.

Rankin didn’t specifically tell the women who founded the organization in her name that education was the way to improve women’s lives.

She didn’t have to.

“We knew what it was like to go back to school later in life – after 35, anyway,” said Reita Rivers, who worked as Rankin’s assistant. “We had a lot of ideas back then, but we also knew there were women with interrupted educations. Maybe they got married, maybe they had babies, maybe they were escaping a dangerous relationship.”

As the foundation celebrated its 30th year of fundraising at the annual Legacy Lecture on Thursday, another trailblazer for women stressed the importance of education.

The first woman to sit on the Georgia Supreme Court, where she now is chief justice, Leah Ward Sears lauded Rankin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1902 and worked in social work before the women’s movement drew her attention.

“We, as women, must be willing to pick up the torch that she laid down,” Sears said.

Over the past five years, literacy rates have improved worldwide, but 770 million people still cannot read – and the majority are women, Sears said.

Of the 300 million children who work, rather than study, two-thirds are girls, she added.

While protections against child labor and compulsory education help in this country, American youth face their own depressing numbers.

In Georgia, 45 percent of public school children don’t graduate high school and 53 of every 1,000 babies are born to teen mothers – 27 percent higher than the national average for teen pregnancy.

“Today, we must find a way to make poverty and teen pregnancy as scary as the surgeon general made smoking and lung cancer in the ’60s and ’70s,” Sears said.

For more information about the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, visit

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 033106


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Foundation passes hat for women’s education

Foundation passes hat for women’s education

JRF | Mar 30 2006 |

In 1976, a group of like-minded women formed a foundation to help other women get back into school and earn college degrees. Thirty years later, a new group of women, many of them young enough to be the founders’ daughters, are preparing to carry on their legacy.

The Jeanette Rankin Foundation, which awarded 78 scholarships this year to low-income women over the age of 35 who are going back to college to finish their degrees, held its 30th annual High Hat Tea & Silent Auction to help raise money for the foundation’s endowment. Close to 80 people, all donning their most whimsical hats, attended the tea. And about a fourth of them were under 35 and experiencing the tea for only the first or second time.

“We have attracted a lot more young people to the foundation in the last couple of years,” said Margaret Holt, one of the foundation’s founders. “But there has always been diversity in the political direction, age and everything in our membership.”

This was first time attending the tea for Katie Hooper, who is about as old as the organization itself. Originally, she was drawn to the event because it gave her a chance to show off her hat – a black straw number embellished with a 4-foot long pheasant feather – but it’s also good to find of group of people who feel that education is as important as she feels it is.

“These women (who started the foundation) want it to last and they want to share it with new members,” Hooper said.

“Things have to be multi-generational if they’re going to continue to work, and I think they realize that,” added Halene Halstead, who attended the tea with Hooper.

The tea is one of the foundation’s largest annual fundraisers.

The foundation began with the $16,000 bequest of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress. The endowment now is valued at $700,000.

Laura Bierema, the foundation’s president, said that some of the money the foundation raises this year will be used to launch a nation-wide fundraising effort.

The foundation now receives most of its funding from donors in the Atlanta and Athens area.


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