All posts tagged: women

Celebrating 100 Years of First Woman in Congress

Celebrating 100 Years of First Woman in Congress

JRF | Apr 27 2017 |  · · · 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Jeannette Rankin becoming the first woman to hold a seat in Congress. On April 2, 1917, Jeanette took her oath as a U.S. Representative. Not only was Jeannette the first woman to hold a seat in Congress but, she was elected for this position four years before women nationally had the right to vote. Montana was one of t

he first states that allowed women to vote. “We're half the people; we should be half the Congress.” said Jeannette. She used her power to help women gain equality and continue her pursuit for social justice. She even helped draft the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. This created one of Jeannette’s most famous quotes,

“I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give 

women the right to vote.”

It wasn’t easy being the first woman to run for Congress. Jeannette was often criticized and had media commenting on her physical appearance rather than her ability to lead. According to a recent article, before Jeannette’s first election, her team sent information to The New York Times about Jeanette. They in turn ran a mocking article which used this information to encourage Montanans to vote for Rankin because “if she is elected to Congress she will improve that body aesthetically, for she is said to be ‘tall, with a wealth of red hair.’” Jeannette didn’t let this affect her and persisted through all the negative press that surrounded her.

After Jeannette’s first term in Congress she went on to continue to fight for social justice and later served a second term starting in 1941. During both of her terms she voted against the United States entering war. In one of Jeannette’s most elegant quotes she said, “There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.” This made her the only person in Congress to vote against entering both world wars. “As a woman, I can't go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else,” said Jeannette in 1941 during her congressional speech. After her time in office she continued to fight for equality and peace.

Jeannette passed away in 1973 at the age of 92 but, her legacy continues to live on. After her passing, Jeannette left part of her Georgia estate to help mature unemployed women. Jeannette’s personal assistant, Reita Rivers, along with friends Sue Bailey, Gail Dendy, Margaret Holt, and Heather Kleiner, used that money to establish the Jeannette Rankin Foundation to help adult women who face difficulties returning to school. Later we changed the name to Jeannette Women’s Scholarship Fund to better reflect our mission.

Since Jeannette’s monumental first day as the first women U.S. Representative, more than 300 women have held a seat in Congress. Although women continue to endure the negative media attention that Jeannette faced, we persist in showing America why women deserve to have a voice. As Jeanette once said, “Men and women are like right and left hands; it doesn't make sense not to use both.” Every day we celebrate Jeannette and her historical legacy of fighting for women's equality and social justice. We have come a long way since 1917 but, we still have a long way to go.

To read more about Jeannette's life check out this articles:

9 Facts About Jeannette Rankin

Has Anything Changed for Female Politicians?

First Woman in Congress: A Crusader for Peace

Remembering Rankin



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6 Study Tips to Help You Ace Your Exams

6 Study Tips to Help You Ace Your Exams

JRF | Apr 21 2017 |  · · · 

The school year is coming to an end and we all know what that means...finals. You have worked hard all semester and only a few exams stand between you and the finish line. This can be a stressful and overwhelming time but it doesn't have to be. We have come up with these 6 tips to help you be better prepared to ace these exams. Follow these tricks and you’re sure to conquer those finals!

1. Make a calendar to plan your remaining few weeks.
Using a different marker/highlighter for each of your classes, mark your exam dates and schedule times to study starting at least one week before your exam. Spreading out your study time will allow you to study in small chunks rather than cramming all at once.

2. Have a designated study area.
Creating a space that is specific for studying, preferably at a table or desk, will help you to stay focused on studying. Make sure to pick a place with little distractions and has enough space to lay out all your study materials. DO NOT study in bed or on a couch. Your brain already associates these spots with relaxation and will not give you the focus you need when studying.

3. Listen to instrumental music.
Listening to instrumental/classical music has been proven to help stimulate your brain and increase your ability to learn. This type of music relaxes your mind and allows you to focus on your task at hand. It cuts out the distraction of singing lyrics to a song or a TV show playing in the background. TV and songs can disrupt your brain from processing the information you are trying to remember.

4. Create flash cards.
Flash cards are proven to improve a person’s ability to retain information rather than just reading and highlighting. Flash cards allow you to incorporate multiple senses making it easier to retain the information. You are reading, writing, and speaking the information. This also gives you the opportunity to test yourself and put your brain in exam mode early on.

5. Take breaks.
Studying for big exams like final exams are tiring. There is a lot of information to remember and can get overwhelming. When you start to feel stressed, walk away. Have a snack, talk to someone, go for a walk, etc. Set goals for yourself to study for 20-30 minutes and then take a 5-10 minute break. If you sit and look at your information for too long you won’t retain any of it because it all starts to get lumped together.

6. Ask for help.
If you are having trouble with a concept or problem, ask for help. Your professors/instructors are there to help you understand. Send them an email, ask them in class, or go to their office hours. They want you to do your best and will help you if you ask. There is no shame in asking for help.

Good luck!


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Annual Dinner Raises Critical Funds for Scholarships - Your Support of JRF says, “YES YOU CAN!”

Annual Dinner Raises Critical Funds for Scholarships - Your Support of JRF says, “YES YOU CAN!”

JRF | Oct 11 2016 |  · · · 

Annual Dinner raises critical funds for scholarships - Your Support of JRF says, “Yes You Can!”

Daily at JRF, we have the privilege of connecting with inspiring women from across the US who refuse to give up and remain dedicated to pursuing higher education. Sometimes on the calls, there are laughs and sometimes there are tears of pain and joy. All of the time, there is financial, academic, and emotional support— none of which could be made available without you— our donors and volunteers.

Through our social media channels, we show you as much as we can about the journeys of the women served and essentially what the foundation values.

But, as seen at our recent Annual Dinner, there is nothing like meeting the women behind the phone calls, blogs, and social media posts in-person to hear them share their own stories and to connect them with generous people like you who have decided that their education matters.

During the dinner, Scholars from Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida and Portland, Oregon were honored for their academic dedication, but more importantly for their willingness to share their journeys with us, inspiring us to be more vigilant, optimistic, and resourceful in all that we do.

One JRF Scholar, Khadijah, joined us in pursuit of her Associate’s Degree after enduring years of abuse and homelessness. She had heard about the scholarship opportunity via word-of-mouth and said she really only applied on a whim because someone said, “Yes you can!” Khadijah shared to some of the attendees at her table that it wasn’t until she could quiet that little voice of doubt that always said, “no”, that she could really hear and listen to the voice that said, “Yes you can!”

It took a village of support and the sisterhood of the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund to convince her that she and her family truly deserved a higher quality of life through higher education. She just completed her first year of law school and because so many decided to pour into her future, she spends time each week mobilizing women within her own community.

Your attendance at the Annual Dinner, your financial support, and your invested time all breathe life into that little voice (one we all need to hear at some point) that says to women, “Yes you can.”

You have probably heard that when you educate a woman, you educate a village, and if one ever had any doubt that this isn’t in fact true, they haven’t met you or the scholars and families that you support.

Thanks to digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter, our Scholars are building bonds and empowering each other, across state lines and amidst differing time zones, extending the value of their shared Jeannette Rankin Foundation experience.

To know where we are heading, we must remember where we have come from and that’s the beauty of the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund. We celebrate Jeannette Rankin’s role as a social justice advocate and realize how her legacy lives on through JRF.

We celebrate our Scholars and our incredibly supportive communities because with each scholarship provided, another woman is provided with resources to empower herself, her family, and her community.

The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund’s 40th Anniversary Annual Dinner celebrated these collective investments and accomplishments of women’s education with an eye to providing ever more support for the women who need us.  

As a result of the dinner, $86,680 was raised. Know that your support as donors and volunteers gives so much more than scholarships.

Thank you again to all of our donors, our volunteers, our sponsors, and our board for making this event possible! Special thank you to our proud sponsor, Delta Air Lines! We hope to see your faces again soon at our SMART Party on November 10th at Ponce City Market, General Assembly.

Missed the event? Check out the pictures via our Flickr page.


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“When they go low, we go high.” Taking the High Road to Higher Education

JRF | Jul 27 2016 |  · · · 

When speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke as a woman, as a mother, as the First Lady, and as a wife. In her speech, the First Lady spoke of the importance of character, convictions, decency, and grace. Ultimately, these qualities of selflessness are crucial, yet often overlooked, in today’s leaders.

Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund's Executive Director, Karen Sterk, asserts that,

“As supporters of women’s education and empowerment, we are excited to be witnessing this historic moment in our country’s history. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress 100 years ago this November, running on the Republican ticket.  One hundred years later, the Democrat nominee for President is a woman. While we are a non-partisan organization, we applaud women getting involved in public service and we see the parallels between the work they do and the work of our scholars."

Each day at the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRF), we are inspired by the selflessness of our scholars. Many have children and are struggling to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. Still, they rise each morning more dedicated than before to earn an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. JRF Scholars don’t stop because they understand their achievements are for the bettering of themselves, their family, their community, and this nation.

A significant number of our scholars are also single parents, so when they decide to make a temporary sacrifice to complete their degree, they take on a deliberate risk to better their children’s futures. Like leaders in today’s political movement, JRF Scholars have decided to redefine limited historic definitions of what success looks like in America.

When we talk to our single-parent scholars, they talk about their journey through the lens of their children. They proudly describe how they sit and do homework together at the table. Some women were once homeless, yet they always made sure their children were in school each day for a meal and for an education.  Some women find energy in helping other women in their communities obtain their GEDs so that they too can go to college. Others laugh as they reflect on their sleepless nights or how many times they had to start over. They keep going.

Often, our JRF Scholars enter our sisterhood of scholarship and support after hitting some sort of breaking point. During Obama’s DNC speech this week, she shared that her motto to her daughters in the face of adversity is, “when they go low, we go high.” In response to low points, JRF Scholars have taken the high road to higher education. By taking the high road, they decide to believe in themselves despite any public or private criticisms of who they should be or what they should be limited to achieve.

For the children of our scholars, their mothers are their champions and, in turn, the children are also their mothers’ champions. When we ask women how they seek joy in the midst of being a non-traditional student and parent, they usually say it’s their children who keep them laughing and remembering why they are doing it. In turn, the women are refueled with energy to complete their Associate’s or their Bachelor’s degree for access to better resources and to be bigger champions for their children’s success.

Together JRF Scholars and their children have forged ways to achieve personal, professional, and academic goals. When children participate in this intentional work, they are being groomed to break cycles of poverty through education. One of our dedicated volunteers is barely 10 years old. She gives of her time because she already has a growing appreciation of women’s education.

Every day we all have the opportunity to shape the future of America’s children. For 40 years JRF has been empowering women through education, providing them scholarships to help them complete their degrees to not just make a living but to make a life. 

Click here to empower champions through the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund.


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For 30 years, I ran from myself. Now, I’m graduating from college!

JRF | Jul 20 2016 |  · · · 

"Hitting me with a truck.

Chaining me to a stove.

Pouring boiling hot water on me.

Being sold and re-sold.”

Allie has overcome a lot of trauma. She now has a 4.0 GPA and is graduating with her Associate’s Degree in English in December 2016. She plans to transfer into a B.A. program at the University of Houston. In the midst of her traumatic childhood experiences, she still graduated from high school at the age of 17. She even went straight to college afterward, but she went through over 30 years of destruction before she was ready to return.

As she is stepping into a new space, we asked her to dig deeper into a darker side of herself that she has done a lot of work to heal from. Personal healing can sometimes comes in the form of sharing our stories.

Today, in addition to being a student, Allie works with different community organizations in Houston to bridge gaps between healthcare and criminal justice professionals, two entities that interact most often with abused women.

Click play on the YouTube video below to listen to Allie’s story, recorded by 3rdMilClassroom. Keep reading to see what she shared with the us as a Jeannette Rankin Scholar.

At the age of 3, Allie was raped by her grandfather for the first time.

Allie endured this traumatic abuse until she was 11 years old when he passed away.

Soon after, she decided she had had enough and decided to run away. To survive, she ran into the arms of “boyfriends” who were 20-30 years old and offered her food, shelter, clothing, and drugs in exchange for sexual favors. 

Allie soon started getting into human trafficking. For a long time, she didn’t even acknowledge that what she was doing was called human trafficking and prostitution.

Allie goes back and forth through unstable spaces for years, desperately looking for “a high or experience to cope with issues [she] didn’t want to deal with.”

In her early teens, she started experiencing flashbacks from her past and that’s when her family realized that something was extremely wrong. Drugs helped temporarily suppress the anxiety of the flashbacks.

“I was scared of my own voice.”

You could say she has a bit of a Breaking Bad story because she started making meth by stealing from her school’s chemistry lab. Her successful drug operation led her to develop a heroin addiction. “Addiction turned the fear [of my own experiences] into hate.  At that point, everything I was cooking, I was using.”

Allie shared that what most people don’t understand is drugs, sexual abuse, prostitution, human trafficking are all related forms of power and self-destruction.

When she moved to South Central L.A., her body became a part of a local gang’s initiation process. The initiates were forced to kidnap Allie, rob her, and take turns having their fun with her. Her trafficker coincidentally always showed up to save her after these events.

Even when her trafficker stabbed her, this still wasn’t her wake up call because she had fallen in love with him and he made her feel less broken. Amidst the beatings and mistreatment, there was a twisted form of affection and acknowledgment that she feigned for from him. 

After going to jail for an eighth felony, Allie decided she was ready to do the work to heal from her past and to save herself. 

“For the first time, I was forced to surrender to my reality.”

In 2014, Allie enrolled in a vocational school in Houston after being denied admission to countless programs because of her paper trail of mistakes and felonies.

For so long, she was really just trying to make it, especially with her former trafficker of 8.5 years. If she ever came home empty-handed, he always greeted her with a beating.

“In order to survive emotionally, I created someone else who was able to deal with those stressors."

When do you find space for education in the midst of fighting for daily life?

An oppressor’s strongest biggest weapon is to deny one access to education, to deny one the opportunity of being empowered and educated. An educated woman is dangerous because she is able to rewrite and re-shape her narrative.  An education equips women with more resources to be self-sufficient and to better serve her community.

"At first, I didn’t want to dream big because it required sacrifices to be made.”

Allie has been clean for three years and has used her resourceful nature to seek financial aid for her education. We are beyond proud to have her as one of our Jeannette Rankin Scholars.

She facilitates focus groups with imprisoned women who’ve endured child exploitation by using storytelling and art as coping mechanisms.

When she isn’t studying or serving in the community, she loves to spend time with her grandmother and belove dog.

Pictured on right is Allie's grandmother and her beloved dog. Pictured on left is an original piece created by Allie.

“My grandmother has seen me with black eyes and with my pimps and she still loves me unconditionally. She’s my rock.”


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