Jeannette Rankin 18801973

L. Chase (lifedates unknown)
Gelatin silver print, c. 1917

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of Margaret Sterling Brooke

In 1916 Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to serve in the U.S. Congress. Before her milestone victory, Rankin had gained valuable political experience traveling widely on behalf of the campaign for women’s suffrage. During her congressional race, she made support for this issue—together with child protection and national prohibition—the foundations of her platform.

Rankin served two nonconsecutive terms and was the only member of Congress to vote against the country’s entry into both world wars. In 1918 she lost her bid for election to the Senate in part because of her unpopular stance on the war. A lifelong pacifist, Rankin opposed all war “because we’ve never settled any dispute by fighting.” Her political success owed much to the opportunities afforded many women in the West during this period.