The Beginning of the Rankin Foundation
For more than 40 years the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund has been empowering women through education. Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRF) honors the legacy of an American woman of incredible spirit and determination Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to the United States Congress in 1916. Jeannette was a proponent of women's rights and devoted her life to help women and children and stand up for social justice. When Jeannette died in 1973 at the age of 92, she bequeathed part of her Georgia estate to help mature, unemployed women workers, providing the seed money to create the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, a nonprofit scholarship fund.
Jeannette’s personal assistant, Reita Rivers, and dear friends Sue Bailey, Gail Dendy, Margaret Holt, and Heather Kleiner, established the foundation in 1976 with the $16,000 from her Watkinsville, Georgia estate. To honor Jeannette’s request to help mature, low-income women, the foundation was created to award scholarships to women 35 or older go back to school to earn a bachelors or technical degree. Scholarships help pay for college tuition but can also be used for other living expenses such as childcare, rent, transportation etc. In 2008, the foundation decided to change its name to Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund to better reflect the organizations mission.
The first scholarship was awarded in 1978 in the amount of $500. Since then we have awarded $3 million in scholarships, providing financial aid to more than 1,000 low-income women from all cultures and backgrounds across the U.S. to help them conquer poverty and achieve their dreams of a better life.
A college education can mean the difference between making a living and making a life. The women who receive these scholarships have gone on to do amazing work and 47% of the women were the first in their family to attend college. JRF continues to empower women of all backgrounds from across the nation to better themselves and our world. The foundation continues to advocate for social justice and carries on the legacy of Jeannette Rankin.
A bequest from Jeannette Rankin provided the first funds for Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund. Jeannette was famously the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. While growing up in Montana, Jeannette worked as a school teacher and social worker, these occupations convinced her that women's suffrage was critical. She was at the core of the suffrage movements in both Montana and Washington state. In 1916 Jeannette ran for one of Montana's House seats, proving victorious in a very close race.