For many years, women in the United States lived withoutbasic human rights, like voting or owning land and homes in their own name. JeannetteRankin transformed the future of women’s basic rights when she became the firstever women to be elected into Congress. She achieved and overcame manyobstacles by holding a place in office during a time when many females couldnot legally vote. When Rankin was in Congress she persuaded multiple states topass the law in order for women to have the ability to vote.
Rankin alsoendured negative feedback and was insulted for being a pacifist, but she showedcourage by continuing to fight for women’s rights. Rankin was born June 11th,1880 in Missoula, Montana. Jeannette always was a pacifist because of the wayshe was brought up; as she grew up her father, John Rankin, taught her to be asupporter of equal rights and to fight for what she believed. One of theconcepts that Jeannette took from her family upbringing was the belief thatweapons and war were pointless and could not help solve anything and to peacefullyfight for equal rights. Rankin knew that her calling was to be a women’s activistand to fight and speak for women’s rights. When Ranking was running for officeit was during a time when many women could not vote and for her to be a womanrunning for office In Congress was a challenge Rankin overcame by campaigningmore than any man before her.
She visited all parts of Montana and gavemultiple speech everywhere she went and sharing her thoughts with those whowould listen. She spoke about the importance of women’s right and shared hernegative views on wars. She made a promise to Montana to represent and vote forthem rather than represent the women’s rights causes she came to care about sodeeply. From this, she gained women’s votes from her support with suffragistand men with the speeches that she gave promising to better Montana. Rankin endedup winning by about 7,500 votes (Bright 37-38). Immediately when Rankin wascommitted to office, she fought for her beliefs about the upcoming vote whichwould ultimately decide if the United States would enter World War I.
Withvoting no, the war would isolate suffragist and ultimately lead to the loss ofsupport from Montana and ending her career in office. With voting no, she wouldhave gone against her promise to keep as many people as possible out of thewar. She went with her beliefs and voted no along 49 others. Because Rankin wasa women, she received backlash from the community.
She was singled out by anewspaper that claimed she was not able to handle to feedback and cried andfainted during the process of the vote. Rankin being a woman led to manypeople, men and women, saying that Rankin was not fit enough to have a place inoffice especially since it was a political position. From this, many peoplebased their opinions on women in political positions from the falsely reportednewspaper article. (Bright 44). Her vote against the war made many of hersuffragist supporters distance themselves and the result of this pushed herback in her vote.
Unfortunately this also supported men’s’ believes in the stereotypicalwoman, who is weak and not able to emotionally handle herself in a politicaltitle. Regardless of all the negativefeedback Rankin got, she continued to fight and represent Montana for theirbelieves. Rankin’s confidence showed when she was able to form what would laterbe known as the Nineteenth Amendment, she spoke on behalf of all women saying, “Howshall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress thatvoted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measureof democracy to the women of our Country?” Rankin went against being quiet andrevolted by questioning the point of women having to obey laws if they weren’teven given basic rights such as voting. Sadly, on Rankins part, the attack on Pearl Harbor causedalmost every member of congress to vote “yes” on World War II, and Jeannette’sfeelings against war lead her to be the only person against sending anyone towar.
She explained her position onvoting against the war by stating “As a woman I cannot go to war, and I refuseto send anyone else.” Many people felt disgraced by her speaking against themajority vote and in the eyes of many viewers she was not able to show supportand patriotism to the United States. She received threatening letters fromformer supporters in Montana that suggested that she should resign from officeand stop representing their state (Bright Sky 14-15). As hard as it was forRankin, because of how much she deeply cared about other people she resigned butshe knew that she would not be able to go against all values and morals thatshe strongly held and her pacifistic views had again injured her chances at keepinga place in office (Political 77).
It was Rankins views on keeping peace that kept her fromholding a steady place in office. The way she was raised to know that war wouldnot solve anything even if the United States was under attack, was notsupported by enough people to continue her place in Congress. She loss many supporters but she kept hermorals regardless of what others thought, she knew that not going to war wouldkeep everyone she represented safe and that was more important to her thanhaving peoples sons be killed.
Her relentless efforts to keep people out of warshowed great courage and led to great progress in the direction of women’s rights.As Rankins parting words state: “I may be the first woman member of congress,but I won’t be the last” is one of the most famous quotes uttered by JeannetteRankin.