History of Jeannette Rankin

The woman and the legacy

“I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”

— Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)

Jeannette Rankin was born in Montana on June 11, 1880. While many are familiar with the suffragist’s political history and her votes for peace during both world wars, there is much more to Jeannette’s story. A woman of great conviction and courage, Jeannette observed life at the turn of the last century with a deep sense of empathy for the women, children and families who lived in poverty and without legal protections. Her early experiences as a social worker and activist inspired her to take direct action for a more just society. Ultimately, her commitment to humanity and equality helped shape our democracy and continues to make a tangible impact.

Watch Jeannette tell the story of suffrage in her own words in this 1972 video, part of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection.

Jeannette’s long, bold life

1880
Portrait of the Rankin family circa 1895. Front Row, Left to Right: John, Mary, Edna, Grace, Wellington, Olive. Back Row, Left to Right: Jeannette, Harriet, Philena (photograph). Montana Historical Society
1913

Jeannette Rankin in the science lab at the University of Montana, Missoula. Mansfield Library, Archives & Special Collections/University of Montana-Missoula

1914
1916
1917

Jeannette was one of 50 members of Congress who voted against entry into the First World War. Library of Congress

1919

Jeannette’s vote for the 19th Amendment helped give 26 million American women the right to right before the 1920 presidential election. Library of Congress

1940

A lifelong pacifist, Jeannette campaigned on a platform of peace. (Pictured circa 1932) Everett Collection

1941

Jeannette was the only member of Congress to vote against entry into World War II. Library of Congress

1946
1968

The Jeanette Rankin Brigade marches in protest of the Vietnam War. Jeanette (wearing glasses) stands holding the banner at the center. Bettmann

Read more about the Jeannette Rankin Brigade.

1973

Jeannette circa 1970. Jeannette provided the seed money and the inspiration for the Jeannette Rankin Foundation. Montana Historical Society

1976

Download Jeannette Rankin’s Story

Learn more about Jeannette’s story by downloading the PDF of the short biography written by Dorothy Sams Newland, admirer of Jeannette Rankin and longtime leader and supporter of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation.

Other books written about Jeannette:

  • Jeannette Rankin, America’s Conscience by Norma Smith

  • Jeannette Rankin America’s First Congresswoman by Peter Aronson
  • Jeannette Rankin: Bright Star in the Big Sky by Mary Barmeyer O’Brien

  • Jeannette Rankin: A Political Woman by James J. Lopach and Jean A. Luckowski

  • Jeannette Rankin on the Road by Cody Dodge Ewert

  • Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle

  • ONE WOMAN AGAINST WAR: The Jeannette Rankin Story by Kevin S. Giles