Jeannette Rankin casts sole vote against WWII

Jeannette Rankin casts sole vote against WWII

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Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist, casts the sole Congressional vote against the U.S. declaration of war on Japan. She was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both World Wars, having been among those who voted against American entry into World War I nearly a quarter of a century earlier.

Rankin was a committed pacifist, and she cared little about the damage her beliefs caused her political career. Although some male representatives joined her in voting against World War I in 1917, many citizens saw her vote as evidence that a woman could not handle the difficult burdens of national leadership. Perhaps as a result, Montanans voted her out of office two years later. Ironically, Rankin won re-election to the House in 1940, just in time to face another vote on war.

While her commitment to pacifism was politically harmful during World War I, Rankin knew that in the case of World War II, it would be downright suicidal. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor was devastating, and zeal for revenge was at a fever pitch. The vast majority of Americans supported President Roosevelt’s call for a declaration of war.

Rankin, however, believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack because he wanted to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany; she was determined not to cooperate with the president’s plan. After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House, a roll call vote began. When her turn came, Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

When news of Rankin’s vote reached the crowd gathered outside the capitol, some patriots threatened to attack the Montana congresswoman, and police escorted her out of the building. Rankin was vilified in the press, accused of disloyalty, and called “Japanette Rankin,” among other impolite names. She stood her ground, however, and never apologized for her vote.

When her term neared completion two years later, Rankin was certain she would not win re-election and chose not to run again. She continued to be an active advocate for pacifism, and led a campaign against the Vietnam War in 1968 when she was 87 years old.

House History Timeline, 1900–1999

Representative Joseph Gurney Cannon of Illinois was elected Speaker for the first time. “Uncle Joe” Cannon became one of the House’s most powerful Speakers as a proponent of less legislative intrusion on growing American industry.

January 9

With the completion of the first House Office Building construction, Members drew numbers to occupy personal offices for the first time. As a result, five years later, the House approved new theater seating in its chamber to replace Members’ individual desks.

March 19

Nearly 200 Members of the House banded together to strip Speaker Joseph Cannon of his power to appoint Members to the influential Committee on Rules. Known as the Cannon Revolt, the action greatly curtailed the Speaker’s absolute control over the House Chamber and proceedings.

April 2

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman Member.

May 21

After the Senate failed to pass the 19th Amendment in the prior Congress, the House again passed the measure which granted women the right to vote. Before being sent to the President, Speaker Frederick Gillett of Massachusetts signed the approved final version of the bill. The states ratified the law in 1920.

June 11

The House passed the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, setting the number of Representatives at 435. After each decennial census since 1930, seats have been apportioned among the states using the formula established in that act.

June 14

In an attempt to jumpstart the domestic economy, the House passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, raising duties once again to extremely high levels. The tariff backfired, severely inhibiting foreign trade and sending the American economy deeper into the Great Depression.

November 4

The Republicans won a narrow majority of House seats in the fall elections, but the deaths of 19 Members-elect before the opening of the 72nd Congress (1931–1933) allowed the Democrats to gain a majority after a series of special elections. Texas Representative John Nance Garner was elected Speaker of the House.

September 16

The House elected Representative Sam Rayburn of Texas Speaker for the first time. The longest-serving Speaker, Rayburn later was instrumental in expanding the Committee on Rules to dilute the power of racial conservatives opposed to social legislation.

December 8

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana cast the sole vote against the declaration of war on Japan. By her vote Rankin became the only Member of Congress to oppose U.S. participation in both world wars.

May 18

The House unanimously passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill of Rights) which provided far reaching educational aid, employment assistance, medical care, and housing opportunities for returning World War II veterans. Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts, a long time advocate for U.S. veterans, helped craft many of the bill’s provisions.

August 2

The House passed the first Legislative Reorganization Act, a sweeping set of reforms that limited the number of House Committees, increased office allowances, and required lobbyist to register.

August 25

Based on testimony by former Communist Party member Whittaker Chambers, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas of New Jersey, grilled former State Department official Alger Hiss as part of an investigation into his alleged work as a Soviet spy. The Hiss–Chambers hearings dominated headlines and epitomized wide-ranging congressional anti-communist investigations during the early Cold War.

March 1

A group of armed Puerto Rican nationalists fired onto the House Chamber while in session, wounding five Members before being subdued by police and public visitors in the House gallery.

January 3

Representative Dalip Singh Saund of California became the first Asian American to serve in Congress.

May 24

The cornerstone for the new Rayburn House Office Building was laid. Two days prior, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation to rename the old and new House office buildings as the Cannon and Longworth buildings, respectively.

July 2

The House passed the Civil Rights Act, which expanded federal power to protect African-American voting rights and penalties for states that failed to desegregate public schools and accommodations.

January 3

Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York became the first African-American woman to serve in Congress.

January 23

As a result of the 1970 Legislative Reorganization Act, the first electronic voting system was utilized in the House Chamber, streamlining the roll call vote process.

July 27

The House Judiciary Committee approved the first of three articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon stemming from the Watergate Scandal. Facing impeachment articles of obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential power, and contempt of Congress, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.

March 19

For the first time, the House began live television broadcasts of its complete floor proceedings.

July 16

The House participated in a ceremonial Joint Session of Congress in Congress Hall and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The session commemorated the bicentennial of the Great Compromise at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

January 4

Organized under a series of campaign promises dubbed “The Contract with America,” the Republican Party assumed the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. The new majority elected Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House.

July 24

Two Capitol police officers, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, were shot to death by a deranged gunman entering the Capitol. Both men lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on July 28 prior to burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

December 19

The House impeached President William J. Clinton for obstruction of justice and perjury. The Senate acquitted him on February 12, 1999.

Only One Person Voted Against the United States Entering World War II

Jeanette Rankin stuck to her guns, even when she was preventing others from firing them.

Related Content

On this day in 1941, Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against the U.S. declaring war on Japan following the December 7 attacks on Pearl Harbour. That declaration brought the United States into World War II. It wasn’t the first time Representative Rankin spoke out for peace, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Rankin’s December 8, 1941 vote also made her the only member of Congress to vote against the U.S. joining both World Wars, writes Add those on to the other pile of firsts that Rankin laid claim to: she was the first woman to be elected to Congress, before women were even able to vote, and was also instrumental to the passing of the 19th Amendment, which gave them the power to do so, writes Scott Mansch for the Great Falls Tribune.

Rankin was a feminist, writes Whitney Blair Wyckoff for NPR. But for her, feminism led naturally to pacificism. “She saw her womanhood as including that idea of pacifism,” Rankin expert Jim Lopach told Wyckoff. Rankin believed that having women in power might lead to less violence, Lopach said.

After she voted against joining World War I in 1917, Rankin’s constituents voted her out of office in the 1919 election. Lopach told Troy Carter of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that her loss likely wasn’t directly linked to the war, but to other factors during her term.

However, Rankin won her seat back in 1940—just in time for the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt’s famous  speech, which also happened on December 8 and asked Congress to respond to  “the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan” by declaring war.

Voting against the war, alone and in that climate, was political madness. But there Rankin’s vote stood: 388 to 1 against. Her “no” vote was met with a “chorus of hisses and boos” according to an Associated Press report of the time, quoted in her official biography on the House of Representatives website. This episode is the source of her famous quotation, "As a woman I can't go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else." Following the vote, she was forced to shelter in a phone booth while awaiting police escort to her office. 

“She picked up the phone in the booth of the House cloakroom, then waited, like a cornered rabbit,” NPR quoted The Washington Post as writing in its coverage of the day. That vote essentially ended her time in office, although she had two more years on her term, according to her official biography. But she had made her point.

Rankin didn’t run for election again when her term ended two years later. She never apologized for her vote and continued campaigning for peace, writes, leading a protest against the Vietnam War in 1968, when she was 87 years old.

About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.

Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Some of her contemporaries certainly believed it did. “I knew she couldn’t be elected again if she did vote against the war,” her brother Wellington Rankin said. “I didn’t want to see her destroy herself.” The formidable head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt, charged that Rankin’s vote lost the woman suffrage cause “a million votes.” At the time, Catt announced, “Miss Rankin was not voting for the suffragists of the nation.”

Rankin, Undeterred

But Rankin remained a formidable political figure in her home state of Montana and on Capitol Hill. In some ways her vote against the war actually enhanced her political standing. Nervous about her growing power, the state legislature gerrymandered her into a district filled with Democrats, leading Rankin to run for the Senate instead—a decision that the incumbent Montana Democratic Senator, Thomas Walsh, had feared would happen.

Despite the common misconception today, voting against the war resolution in 1917 was not an act of political suicide. Nor was Rankin alone in her opposition. When she voted “no” early in the morning of April 6, 1917, Rankin joined 49 other House Members.

As a freshman lawmaker, Rankin decided to not participate in the war debate—a choice she later regretted—but she was diligent in her attendance. She was there when the debate began on the morning of April 5, sitting and listening until midnight when she briefly left the chamber. She was back to participate in the roll call vote, but she never articulated her opposition on the floor during debate. In fact, the only record we have of her commenting on the war in the House was during the final vote when she violated House Rules and made a quick statement after the tally clerk called her name: “I want to stand by my country,” she said, “but I cannot vote for war.”

The War Debate

Twenty-one other Members, however, did speak at length during debate, and cited four main reasons for their opposition to the war resolution: the war threatened no vital national interest public opinion did not support entering the war Congress had not given the U.S. policy of “armed neutrality” a chance to succeed and finally, the country was being pushed into the war to protect commercial interests and arms manufacturers.

The greatest surprise of the debate came when Majority Leader Claude Kitchin of North Carolina rose in opposition to the war. “War upon the part of a nation is sometimes necessary and imperative,” he said. “But here no invasion is threatened. Not a foot of our territory is demanded or coveted. No essential honor is required to be sacrificed. No fundamental right is asked to be permanently yielded or suspended. No national policy is contested. No part of our sovereignty is questioned.”

Midwestern Members frequently spoke of opposition to the war back home—sentiments they had picked up from their constituents during the recent election. “The truth of the matter is that 90 per cent of your people and mine do not want this declaration of war,” Fred A. Britten of Illinois said, “and are distinctly opposed to our going into that bloody mire on the other side.” Britten’s stand was another surprise since he had built a reputation as a supporter of a powerful navy. Nebraska’s Charles H. Sloan spoke of “the well-known opposition of two-thirds of the American people,” and Charles Hall Dillon of South Dakota said “a great majority are opposed to this broad declaration of war.”

Opponents to the resolution claimed that munitions makers and assorted other industries that stood to profit from the war were pushing the United States into the conflict. Ohio’s Isaac R. Sherwood accused DuPont Chemicals and Bethlehem Steel with promoting war in order to boost profits. Edward J. King of Illinois argued that the U.S. was set to go to war to protect the millions that Wall Street magnate J.P. Morgan had loaned to Great Britain. Western Members repeated these same claims. Washington’s William L. La Follette spoke of “a war of commercialism” in Europe, while Nevada’s E.E. Roberts stated, “I am opposed to declaring war to save speculators.” Clarence C. Dill of Washington was similarly “unwilling to vote to send the boys to the European trenches because we can not trade with the countries now at war.”

While Rankin sat and absorbed the debate, opponents made even more arguments against the war. William E. Mason of Illinois warned that the United States was unprepared and feared the “wholesale murder” of untrained American troops, many of whom were barely out of their teens. Others charged that the administration had never actually been neutral in its dealings with Europe, clearly favoring Britain and France over Germany. Several Republican Members reminded Democratic colleagues that their 1916 campaign touted the fact that President Wilson “kept us out of war.” “Your platform pledges are null and void,” Minnesota’s Ernest Lundeen charged. “You promised peace, but war was in your hearts.”

The Vote and the Aftermath

When House clerks tallied the war vote early on April 6, almost two-thirds of the opponents in the House were Republican, and almost three-quarters came from Midwestern states, where neutrality remained popular among voters. During the 1918 election cycle, the consequences for voting against the war varied: more than half of the 50 House opponents (27) won reelection. Six lost renomination (including five Republicans), and eight lost reelection (including five Democrats). Five retired, and three died in office. Two Republicans ran for other office—including Jeannette Rankin who ran for the Senate.

Rankin may have opposed the war but she was rock-ribbed in her support for the young Americans fighting it. She championed war-time appropriations to fund the troops, and backed the federal takeover of America’s mines for the purpose of extracting resources for the war effort. Later in the year she also supported the declaration of war against Austria-Hungary.

But the no vote cast a long shadow over her legacy. In 1936, Rankin was asked to write an article about her 1917 vote against the war. She remembered that endless and emotional session. And she remembered what she was thinking as she sat and listened. “I had been thinking peace until I had built up a peace-thinking habit. I had been speaking against war for seven years, during the campaign for woman suffrage.” Her conclusion was inevitable. “I voted against war because I felt there must be a better way,” she wrote. “I would vote that way again.”

Sources: Congressional Record, House, 65th Cong., 1st sess. (5 April 1917): 306–413 Washington Post, 6 April 1917 Los Angeles Times, 6 April 1917 Christian Science Monitor, 1 April 1936 Paul Sothe Holbo, “They Voted against War: A Study of Motivations” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1961) Richard Kenneth Horner, “The House at War: The House of Representatives during World War I, 1917–1919” (PhD diss., Louisiana State University, 1977).

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the election and swearing-in of the first woman in Congress, we will publish a series of blog posts about the early women Members and the changing role of women in the institution. Check back each month through 2017 to see the latest posts.

The Lone Vote Against Entering World War II

On December 7th, 1941, the United States suffered one of its darkest days. Angered by trade sanctions enforced by the US, Japan launched a strike against the naval base at Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu. During the tragic events that shattered a quiet Sunday morning, over 2,400 American men and women perished and the US Pacific Fleet suffered the total destruction of two battleships and varying degrees of damage to six more.

The effects of the Pearl Harbor attack were felt immediately as word spread across the Pacific to the United States mainland. Government officials were the first to learn of the attack, and details were soon disseminated to the American public. Fear and panic gripped the country, especially coastal regions in Oregon, Washington, and California.

President Roosevelt addressing Congress December 8, 1941

The feeling of a need to avenge the attack struck many Americans. On December 8th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress, his speech broadcast across the nation. Calling for a vote from congress to declare war with the Japanese, Roosevelt proclaimed that December 7th, 1941 would be a date that would live in infamy.

Within hours of Roosevelt’s address, Congress came back with a near-unanimous vote, with only one member voting against going to war. When Montana’s Representative Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to hold national office in America, cast her vote against taking the fight to Japan, she took a brave stance to stick to her beliefs and what she thought to be true, something she had also done during World War I.

Rather than voice her suspicions about conspiracies and US government involvement in the Pearl Harbor attack, when it came time to vote, Rankin stood up and simply declared that, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.” It seemed to be a safer avenue to take, but it wasn’t without repercussions. The press quickly caught wind of what many saw as a declaration of support for America’s enemies.

Immediately following the vote, Representative Rankin received death threats, and required a police escort to return home. The press dragged her name through the mud, vilifying her for voting in a way that made her seem less patriotic, especially only 24 hours after the attack.

Regardless of what people said and wrote about her, Jeannette Rankin refused to stray from her initial vote. Doing so probably cost her her career. Before the next election, she decided not to run, knowing she would most likely be easily defeated. Right up to her death at 92 years old, she remained an advocate for pacifism, speaking out against the Vietnam conflict near the end of her long life.

Jeanette Rankin: The Congresswoman Who Voted NO to WWII

I n the days after Japan’s December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, one woman was subjected to more intense vituperation than any other American. Letters and wires called her “a disgrace and a traitor” one stated, “when concentration camps open you should be occupant number one.” The object of this vilification was Republican Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the representative of Montana’s First District.

As the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan, Montana’s Representative Jeannette Rankin raised such ire she had to call for an escort. (Getty Images)

In Dillon, in the southwest corner of the state, the Kiwanis and the Rotary Club fired off a joint telegram to Rankin, reading: “You have done a great disservice to the state of Montana and to the American People.” The Pioneer newspaper in Big Timber suggested “she be publicly spanked on the floor of the House.” Radio commentators used such harsh language in denouncing her that some stations masked their broadcasts with music.

The transgression that earned Rankin, 61, such calumny happened just after 1:00 p.m. on December 8 in the Capitol in Washington, as Irving Swanson, a clerk in the House of Representatives, read members roll call, recording their votes on the fateful resolution declaring war against Japan. “Yea” after “yea” came in like an echo as Swanson read the names at a pace of 20 per minute until he got to Rankin, who in a firm voice announced her stance: “No.” Other House members began hissing.

It was the only vote in either house of Congress against the declaration of war for which President Roosevelt had asked.

For Rankin it was a repeat performance. She was then in her second term in the House. Her first had begun on April 2, 1917, when she was sworn in as the first woman to serve in the United States Congress. Five days later—on April 7—Congress voted on a resolution for entry into World War I and she had voted “no” then as well.

In 1917, however, ambivalence about the country going to battle in Europe was not uncommon. The mood in the United States following the Pearl Harbor attack was quite different. On the Sunday of the attack, Rankin and her sister Edna were on a train from Washington to a speaking engagement in Detroit when she learned that Roosevelt would be addressing a joint session of Congress the next day. She got off the train in Pittsburgh and returned to the Capitol. At her home the phone rang nonstop. The first call was from her brother Wellington, her top political adviser and fundraiser for her political campaigns, urging her not to repeat her World War I “no” vote. So many other callers and visitors repeated that message that Rankin felt she had to escape.

“I didn’t let anybody approach me,” she later told her biographer, Hannah Josephson. “I got in my car and disappeared. Nobody could reach me. I just drove around Washington and got madder and madder” until it was time to go to Congress for the presidential address.

A lifelong pacifist, Rankin did not waver in her determination to vote against the war resolution. But on the day after the shocking and devastating Pearl Harbor attack, the country was in no mood for pacifism. Rankin’s “no” subjected her to such an immediate onslaught from reporters that she retreated to the members’ cloakroom where she hid in a phone booth and called for Capitol Police to escort her back to her office.

RANKIN’S OPPOSITION TO WAR should not have been a shocker. Her anti-intervention position was a key reason for her 1940 campaign for Congress. “If I don’t run,” Rankin said 44 years later to a student writing his master’s thesis about her career, “the women who don’t want war will have no one to vote for.”

Rankin had been an ardent advocate for women’s suffrage it was largely through her efforts that women won the right to vote in Montana in 1914—two years before she was elected to Congress. In 1910, Denver news reporter and women’s rights activist Minnie J. Reynolds had persuaded Rankin that pacifism was an inherent part of feminism. “The women produce the boys and the men take them off and kill them in war,” Reynolds argued. Rankin’s reading of Benjamin Kidd’s 1918 book, The Science of Power, solidified her commitment to Reynold’s feminist-pacifist ideology. Kidd found in men a natural inclination to battle while he found in women a preference for peaceful settling of disputes. Rankin called Kidd’s opus the “most important book” she had ever read.

Not only had she opposed American participation in World War I, but in the interwar years she was active in pacifist organizations she was the chief lobbyist for the National Council for the Prevention of War from 1929 until she left the job to campaign for reelection to Congress in 1940. The antiwar slogan under which she successfully ran was “Keep Our Men Out of Europe.”

As soon as Rankin got back to Congress in January 1941, she organized a grassroots campaign of letters from mothers opposing American entry into the war then raging abroad. Two months later, she opposed Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease legislation. And in May, she gave a Mother’s Day speech on the House floor in which she declared: “There is nothing in the world the mothers of this country would like on this Mother’s Day so much as an assurance that their sons are not going to war.”

Knowing her stance was a lost cause, she nonetheless pressed her anti-intervention views. In June, she offered an amendment to budget authorization legislation for the War Department that read: “no appropriation in this act shall be used to send our army or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas or our insular possessions except in case of attack.” Rankin’s other fruitless legislative initiatives to counter the nation’s drift toward war included attempts to stall the draft until voters had approved conscription, to ban the arming of civilian ships, and to remove the death penalty for wartime sabotage.

She was an astute enough politician to know that in her solitary “no” on the declaration of war she was bucking the mood of her constituents. Shortly after she got back to her office, she hastily drafted a statement trying to explain her vote. “I believed that such a momentous vote—one which would mean peace or war for our country—should be based on more authentic evidence than the radio reports now at hand,” she wrote in the communication to Montana newspapers. “Sending our boys to the Orient will not protect this country…. Taking our army and navy across thousands of miles of ocean to fight and die cannot come under the heading of protecting our shores.”

On December 11 she let the record show she was in the House but not taking a position by saying merely “present”—in such a whisper that the clerk had to ask her to repeat her vote—on the resolutions of war against Germany and Italy. She was not in Washington in June 1942 when Congress declared war on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania.

Three days after her infamous “no” vote, Rankin did not take a position at the December 11, 1941, vote to declare war on Germany and Italy. (Getty Images)

As she served out her term through 1942, Rankin had lost her political clout. She often appeared to be going through the motions without much commitment. While in 1941 she had virtually never missed a vote, by the fall of 1942 she was absent for 80 percent of recorded votes in the House. On the first anniversary of the vote declaring war on Japan, she entered into the Congressional Record a long analysis of how the United States was, in her view, essentially tricked into World War II by Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. “Three years before Pearl Harbor, Britain’s imperialists had figured out just how to bring the United States once more to their aid,” she wrote. She saw as part of the plot Roosevelt’s 1940 decision to impose sanctions on Japan in hopes of fomenting retaliation.

HER DECEMBER 8 “NO” VOTE did draw some admiration for the courage she displayed. “Lord, it was a brave thing,” famed Kansas editor William Allen White wrote in his Emporia Gazette, “and its bravery somehow discounts its folly.” But Rankin’s views found little support.

It had not been that way before. Forty-nine other House members voted along with her 24 years earlier when she cast her vote against American participation in World War I. She received extra protection then against political retaliation when the leader of the House Democrats, Claude Kitchin of North Carolina, also voted “no,” as well as six senators. In 1917, opposition about sending Americans to fight in Europe was particularly strong in Western states like Montana. As a result, Rankin’s anti-intervention stance did not hurt her politically in the 1918 election. But a bad decision did.

Rankin had originally been elected to Congress as one of Montana’s two at-large House members. Before the 1918 election, the legislature changed the process and set up two separate congressional districts. Rankin would have had to run in the Second District, where she felt a Republican had no chance of winning, so she set her sights on the U.S. Senate, hoping to defeat incumbent Democrat Thomas Walsh. After losing the Republican primary for the Senate seat, she ran as an independent, coming in third with about 20 percent of the vote. The irony: a Republican, Carl Riddick, won the House seat Rankin had feared to compete for.

Rankin knew that the second vote in her political career against a declaration of war was political suicide. Her brother Wellington had warned her “Montana is 100 percent against you.” So she did not even try to run for reelection in 1942. Her replacement in the House was Mike Mansfield, who went on to serve 34 years in Congress, the final 16 as Senate majority leader.

While her elective career was over, her efforts as a crusader were not. She continued to preach pacifism, traveled frequently to India to confer with Mahatma Gandhi, and found an increasingly receptive audience for her antiwar rhetoric as the United States became mired in the Vietnam War. In fact, before she died on May 19, 1973, at age 92 she was considering emphasizing her opposition to the war by running for Congress again.

Jeannette Rankin leads the Women’s Peace parade in front of the Capitol Building to protest Vietnam in January 1968. (Stan Wayman/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)

In 1985, the state which had once been 100 percent against Rankin selected her to join Western painter Charles Marion Russell as its two representatives among the 100 famous Americans whose statues are on display in the U.S. Capitol. ✯

This story was originally published in the November/December 2016 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.

Jeannette Rankin casts sole vote against WWII - HISTORY

1914: Leads successful women&rsquos voting drive in Montana

1916: Voted to U.S. Congress&mdashfirst woman ever

1916: Casts &ldquono&rdquo vote against bill proposing U.S. entry in WWl

1918: Loses bid for senate

1918: Moves to Georgia works with several organizations for peace and women&rsquos and children&rsquos rights

1928: Founds Georgia Peace Society

1940: Elected to Congress for second term

1942: Votes &ldquono&rdquo to bill calling for U.S. to enter WWll

1943: Returns to Georgia continues work for peace

1968: Leads 5,000-woman march on U.S. capitol protesting Vietnam War

1976: Jeannette Pickering Rankin Foundation formed to help low-income adult women afford higher education

Born on a ranch in Missoula, Montana, Jeannette Pickering Rankin was described as an &ldquoactive, vigorous child, physically fearless, aware of her own competence and strong in her self-confidence.&rdquo The development of these qualities helped make her the first woman ever to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

In 1914, Jeannette led a successful drive to secure voting rights for women in Montana. In 1916&mdashfour years before women gained the right to vote nationally&mdashshe was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Entering Congress as a member of the Republican Party, Jeannette helped draft the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. The amendment was originally defeated in the Senate, but was enacted in 1919.

Jeannette&rsquos first vote in Congress was a defining one, as she voted against U.S. entry into World War I. Though she was accompanied by 50 other members of Congress who also cast &ldquono&rdquo votes, it was her ballot that became the focus of the pacifist discussion.

In 1918 Jeannette lost a bid for election to the Senate. That same year she moved to Watkinsville, Georgia&mdasha small, comfortable farm community where she worked diligently to strengthen her platform of peace. Though she voted in Montana and owned a small farm there, her biographer, Norma Smith, explains that Jeannette &ldquowas a guest in Montana. Georgia was home.&rdquo

While living in Watkinsville, Jeannette became field secretary for the Women&rsquos International League for Peace and Freedom. She campaigned on behalf of the National Council for the Prevention of War, and with her help Carl Vinson&rsquos $616 million naval construction bill&mdasha bill that she believed wasteful and unnecessary&mdashwas defeated. Vinson was Georgia&rsquos Sixth Congressional Representative.

From her new home in Georgia, Jeannette also worked for the National Consumer&rsquos League, lobbying extensively on behalf of women&rsquos and children&rsquos rights. Believing strongly that everyone should be exposed to the idea of pacifism, through the many organizations she was affiliated with, Jeannette worked to educate people across the country. In 1928 she founded the Georgia Peace Society, and through it organized the Georgia Conference on the Cause and Cure of War.

In 1940, Jeannette won a seat in the House of Representatives for a second time. She again voted against war. But this time she was the sole dissenter against the resolution for the U.S. to enter World War II. Her &ldquono&rdquo vote sealed the fate of her second term in office, and she did not seek re-election in 1942. After traveling extensively to visit family and friends, Jeannette returned to her farm in Georgia. There, she continued to work for peace for decades to follow.

In 1968, Jeannette led a group of 5,000 women in a march on Capitol Hill to protest the Vietnam War. The march was her final public forum, at the age of 87. Upon her death, Jeannette left a portion of her Georgia estate to assist &ldquomature unemployed women.&rdquo

The Jeannette Rankin Foundation was chartered in 1976 with the purpose of helping low-income women over the age of 35 return to college. Since 1978, the foundation has provided educational grants to more than 387 women throughout the United States. Through her life&rsquos work and her foundation, Jeannette Pickering Rankin&rsquos legacy of humanitarianism and feminism continues while helping women achieve their goals through education.

Jeannette Rankin casts sole vote against WWII - HISTORY

By Gary Kidney

On December 8, 1941, America was still shocked by news of war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the day before had been “a date which will live in infamy” because of the “unprovoked and dastardly attack” by Japan on Pearl Harbor. He noted that it was not a single event, but a pattern of attacks that included Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam, Wake, and Midway Islands. In his speech, he interpreted “the will of the Congress … to defend ourselves to the uttermost.” Congress responded with a vote to declare war that made a still-famous front page of The New York Times.

Tremendous suffering and a smoldering need for revenge permeated the days following the attack, but something important is often lost. The congressional vote was not unanimous. Roosevelt did not understand the complete will of Congress. One person, filled with a seldom equaled strength of conviction, rose to challenge war. One single vote was cast against the declaration. One person said, “No.” That person was Jeannette Rankin, a representative from Montana. In addition to being the sole dissenter, history also records that she was the first woman in Congress.

Referring the Resolution to a Committee

Representative Rankin had been scheduled to speak at an event in Detroit on that day. She left by train on Sunday evening, December 7, for the event and took a radio along to follow the fate-filled news. When the radio announced that Congress was to hear Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war, she got off the train in Pittsburgh and returned to Washington, D.C. She arrived at the capitol about noon and took a prominent seat in the first row of the House chamber for the important address.

When the president finished his remarks, the House took up consideration of House Joint Resolution 254, the formal declaration of war. Sam Rayburn (D-Texas), Speaker of the House, asked, “Is a second demanded?” Jeannette Rankin rose. “I object,” she insisted, but the speaker overruled her. “No objection is in order,” he said

In a 1974 oral history, Rankin explained the purpose behind her objection. House rules allow any resolution to be referred to committee upon any member’s request. She wanted to ask for committee referral to “remove the war vote from the passion of the moment and have it at least considered so both sides of the issues could be brought out.” By refusing her objection, Speaker Rayburn effectively violated standard procedure and, as she later claimed, denied her the First Amendment right of free speech.

Objection overruled, a short discussion took place on the House floor. Then, a vote on the resolution was requested. Jeannette Rankin rose just after the question was called. “Mr. Speaker.” Rayburn ignored her and continued, “Those who favor taking this vote by the yeas and nays will rise and remain standing until counted.”

Rankin responded. “Mr. Speaker, I would like to he heard.” Speaker Rayburn continued, “The yeas and nays have been ordered. The question is, Will the House suspend the rules and pass the resolution?”

Rankin tried a third time. “Mr. Speaker, a point of order.” Rayburn responded, “A roll call may not be interrupted.”

When the vote came and her name was called, she answered “No.” Some historians claim that she elaborated on her vote by saying, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.” The Congressional Record does not document this comment. Catcalls, hisses, and boos from the House floor as well as the packed gallery greeted her vote. Colleagues beseeched her to change her mind. However, by 1:10 pm she was still adamant, and the vote stood as recorded, 82 to 0 in the Senate and 388 to 1 in the House.

Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin listens to a colleague attempting to persuade her to vote affirmatively for war on December 8, 1941. Rankin stood her ground and refused to change her position against the declaration.

“Montana is 110 Percent Against You!”

Word of Rankin’s vote escaped the chambers and circulated among the mass of people who had flocked to the capitol. The crowd accosted her as she left the building, pushing toward her and shouting obscenities. She ducked into a phone booth and called capitol police for an escort to her office. There, she remained behind locked doors.

She called her brother, Wellington, in Helena, and his response was, “Montana is 110 percent against you!” She wrote an explanation of her vote to her Montana constituents, citing a campaign pledge to the “mothers and fathers of Montana … to prevent their sons from being slaughtered on foreign battlefields,” and ended her letter with “I feel I voted as the mothers would have had me vote.”

Response from radio commentators and newspaper columnists swiftly vilified Rankin. Many called for her resignation, and some of her constituents demanded her recall. A few accused her of disloyalty or treason. Montana newspapers expressed their dissatisfaction. The Miles City Daily Star of December 10, 1941, offered “humble and respectful apologies to the rest of the United States” for her vote. The Choteau Acantha of December 22 suggested a public spanking on the floor of the House with an old-fashioned hairbrush. On December 14, the Great Falls Tribune dubbed her “Japanette Rankin.” Despite the public reaction, Rankin was never apologetic for her vote.

On Thursday, December 11, when Congress considered separate resolutions of war on Germany and Italy, Rankin simply voted “present” for each roll call, a softer form of “no.” Her convictions and votes made her an outcast in Congress and left her to serve out her term with no chance of reelection. She took part in few floor debates, concentrating on minimizing the war’s effect on Montanans by, for example, strengthening draft deferments.

The Reason Behind Rankin’s Vote

Why did Rankin commit political suicide? Four theories have been advanced to explain her vote.

Some historians have taken Rankin at her words about women in war service and voting for mothers and chalked up her vote to a feminist stance. That view harmonizes well with Rankin’s suffragette activities. She had worked tirelessly in many organizations to achieve women’s voting rights. She helped North Dakota women gain the right to vote in 1913. She was successful in 1914 in her home state of Montana. On the strength of that notoriety and probably as a result of women voters, she was elected to the House of Representatives from Montana, serving from 1917 to 1919. That was her first of two discontinuous terms in Congress and the one that made her the first woman in Congress. On the national stage, she promoted ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and in 1920 it gave women the right to vote everywhere in the United States. As a result of her work as a suffragette and for becoming the first woman in Congress, the National Organization of Women honored Jeannette Rankin at age 91 in 1972 as “the world’s outstanding living feminist.”

Another theory attributes Rankin’s vote to her humanitarianism and interest in social causes. During her post-college years, Jeannette read widely on social issues. A budding interest in social activism drew her to New York City and a Master’s program in social work at the prestigious New York School of Philanthropy. In her after-school afternoons, she engaged in practical social work that showed her the juxtaposition of crippling poverty and lavish wealth, the poor care given orphans, overcrowding in jails, and the lack of public sanitary facilities. She developed a thesis that a woman’s maternal instincts were valuable outside the home toward the improvement of society.

The superstructure of the battleship USS Arizona is a blackened mass of twisted steel as smoke billows from the stricken ship moored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

When working within the existing social work system proved unsatisfactory, Rankin took her activism in the political direction to aim for systemic changes. In 1917, after Anaconda Copper Company’s Granite Mountain mineshaft burst into flames and took the lives of 167 Montana miners, Jeannette rallied for better working conditions. Rankin’s concern for social ills and promotion of social actions led her to advocate that the foundation of democracy was human rights rather than property rights, as was then commonly believed. This took root when she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union as vice president. At Rankin’s death, she left a portion of her estate to assist mature, unemployed women workers. That endowment launched the Jeannette Rankin Woman’s Scholarship Fund.

An Outspoken Pacifist

In an episode of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered titled “The Lone War Dissenter,” Walter Cronkite attributed Rankin’s vote to her being an “outspoken pacifist.” One of Rankin’s most famous quotes is: “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” She perceived the violence and death of war as tragedy and never as triumph. Jeanmarie Simpson’s play and 2009 movie A Single Woman traces the root of Rankin’s pacifism to her learning of the Indian slaughter at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota on December 29, 1890, when Rankin was 10 years old. Rankin recalled: “As the Indians came out of their tents, the American soldiers shot them—shot the Medicine Man and anyone who came out. It was a most disgraceful act, the most outrageous thing that could happen.”

Jeannette carried her pacifism into her first term in Congress. On April 6, 1917, the first woman ever elected to Congress was to cast her first vote. In Kevin Giles’s book Flight of the Dove, he provides some melodrama to that Good Friday early morning by using as his central metaphor a flock of white doves that encircled the capitol. In that building, President Woodrow Wilson requested a vote on a resolution of war with Germany. Jeannette Rankin said, “I want to stand by my country. But I cannot vote for war. I vote NO.” Unlike her lone dissenting vote for World War II, 49 other representatives and six Senators voted for peace. Later, she reflected that this vote was “the single most important act of her life because of the way it crystallized her thinking from that point forward.”

Rankin reflected, “I have always felt that there was significance in the fact that the first woman who was ever asked in Congress what she thought about war, said ‘No!’” Rankin remained a spokesperson for pacifism. In 1968, at 88 years of age, she marched under the banner of “The Jeannette Rankin Peace Parade” with 5,000 women in Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War.

Opposing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Road to War

Rankin offered her own explanation on December 8, 1942, the anniversary of her vote, when she caused an essay to be entered into the formal Congressional Record. The essay, titled “Some Questions about Pearl Harbor,” offers several well argued cases that President Roosevelt was squarely to blame for Pearl Harbor and that he had abandoned his well-professed neutrality prior to the attack. She offered several pointed arguments to advance her opinion.

Her first thesis was that Roosevelt was manipulated by the British into a posture that could only lead to war. She cited a 1938 book by British author Sydney Rogerson titled Propaganda in the Next War, which she had read from the Library of Congress. The book called for British propaganda in the United States, during the next war, to target and build a fear of Japan, predicting that resulting economic sanctions against Japan would cause war and embroil the United States against Germany. Then, she focused on the Atlantic Conference of August 12, 1941, where Roosevelt had promised Churchill that the United States would bring economic pressure to bear on Japan. She noted that the Economic Defense Board had imposed that pressure less than a week later.

She argued that Roosevelt knew that economic and trade sanctions would lead to war. She cited a State Department Bulletin of July 26, 1942, in which Roosevelt admitted that cutting off oil to Japan would lead to war. Rankin reported that she had applied to the Departments of State and Commerce for statistical data for month to month trade between the United States and Japan prior to the war. Such a request was within the rights of a sitting member of Congress. She received a shocking response: “Because of a special executive order, statistics on trade with Japan beginning with April 1941 are not being given out.”

Her third thesis began with a quotation from Life magazine of July 20, 1942, where it was written, “…the Chinese, for whom the U.S. had delivered the ultimatum that brought on Pearl Harbor….” She cited it because the presence of an ultimatum as a cause of World War II was not yet widely or popularly understood. Then, she revealed that on September 3, 1941, a communication had been sent to Japan demanding that it accept the principle of “nondisturbance of the status quo in the Pacific.”

Finally, she offered several examples of military orders predating Pearl Harbor that indicated that war was known to be imminent. Once of the most compelling was the story of Lieutenant Clarence E. Dickinson, published in the Saturday Evening Post on October 10, 1942. He wrote about a mission to deliver a batch of 24 Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter planes from Pearl Harbor to Wake Island on November 28, 1941. He claimed that the mission was “under absolute war orders” and that they “were to shoot down anything we saw in the sky and bomb anything we saw on the sea.”

Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin of Montana is shown surrounded by suffragettes in 1917, as the United States entered World War I. Rankin voted against U.S. entry into World War I.

Rankin reasoned that President Roosevelt had been earnestly working to entrap the United States in war. She thought Pearl Harbor was a massive stroke of luck for him. At the conclusion of her Congressional Record essay, she wondered: “But was it luck?”

Amid wartime secrecy and a lack of direct information, her analysis has proved rather insightful. Her speculation about Roosevelt’s causality of World War II was among the first in what has become a 60-year history of conspiracy theory and spawning more than a dozen books. One of those was written by Congressmen Hamilton Fish (R-NY). He was a noninterventionist, who, in the House debate, laid aside that philosophy and endorsed the war. Later, he believed that Roosevelt had planned for war for quite some time and had tricked the country into involvement.

Jeannette Rankin’s second term in Congress ended in January 1943, just weeks after her Congressional Record essay. In North Africa, German General Erwin Rommel was in full retreat. In the Pacific, battles at Midway and in the Solomons showed a turning tide. Field Marshall Friedrich von Paulus’s German Sixth Army was only weeks away from surrender at Stalingrad. Some glimpsed the end of the conflict, and it became necessary to plan for such an end. Although a Supreme Allied Commander had yet to be named, staff developed a plan for the war’s end and the peace thereafter. Either as irony or homage, this plan was code named Operation Rankin. The Rankin plan served as the basis for D-Day and the occupation zones of a postwar Germany.

Jeannette Rankin’s Legacy

Jeannette Rankin died on May 18, 1973, at age 92, in Carmel, California. History, for the most part, has relegated her to the role of footnote, a woman whose misguided adherence to a set of causes led her to dissent against one of the most popular wars in American history. She achieved a brief glimpse of remembrance when Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) stood alone against the war on terror following 9/11, echoing Jeannette’s convictions of 60 years earlier.

However, in the United States, strength of cause and conviction has always been valued. Jeannette’s ability to stand alone for her beliefs is admirable, maybe even heroic. Questioning leaders, their motives, and their principles is not only a fundamental right but an important duty in a democracy. Jeannette fulfilled that duty despite the unpopularity it caused.

Even more valuable is the voice of dissent. Dissent was fundamental before the words liberty, freedom, equality, and pursuit of happiness were ever celebrated in the United States. Jeannette Rankin should be more than a Trivial Pursuit answer or Jeopardy question. Her contribution to the history of this land should be often remembered.

As a high school junior in an American History class, the author earned extra credit by attending a lecture by Ms. Rankin at a local university. At that time, many things were burning—draft cards, brassieres, protesters in self-immolation, flags, crosses, and napalm. Ms. Rankin was a woman of wit and wisdom. Her speech was feminist, humanist, and pacifist, showing that the causes of her life were still fresh and energizing to her. Her speech was both thought provoking and transformative to at least one teenager whose mind still reeled from the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. During her talk, she said: “There can be no compromise with war it cannot be reformed or controlled cannot be disciplined into decency cannot be codified into common sense.”

Those words were on the author’s mind one February day in 1972, watching on television with no draft deferment as his birthday was drawn 19th in the Selective Service Lottery. The author would have served, but thanks to Jeannette Rankin, and others of like mind, he did not have to.

Jeannette Rankin: One Woman, One Vote

Jeannette Rankin. Collections of the Library of Congress ( Only one woman in American history – Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin – ever cast a ballot in support of the 19th Amendment. In 1916, Rankin represented the citizens of Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives, and she wanted American women nationwide to enjoy the benefits of suffrage. “If I am remembered for no other act, I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote,” Rankin said. [1] But Rankin’s contributions go far beyond that single vote.

Rankin was feisty all her life. She was born in the Montana Territory in 1880, before it became a state. Unlike most women of her day, she attended college, studying biology as a member of the first class of students at the University of Montana. She started her career as a teacher but changed her focus after visiting her brother Wellington Rankin in Boston and seeing urban slums for the first time. When she returned to the west, she got a job at a settlement house for poor women and children.

To improve her skills, she went to New York City, where she studied social work at the New York School of Philanthropy (which later became Columbia University’s School of Social Work). In 1909, she moved to Washington State and began work at an orphanage. The work didn’t suit her she felt she could never do enough to address the needs of the poor by dealing with one case at a time. Recognizing the need for systemic change, she once again returned to school, this time enrolling at the University of Washington to study finance, public speaking, and government.

Jeannette Rankin (right) holding The Suffragist newspaper. Collections of the Library of Congress ( That’s where she discovered suffrage. While at school in Seattle in 1910, Rankin saw an ad in the school newspaper soliciting volunteers to work for women’s suffrage in the state of Washington. During the afternoon she spent putting up suffrage posters around town, and learning more than she had ever known before about suffrage, Rankin thought about the link between suffrage and social reform. If women could vote, it followed that they could support laws to improve the lives of children and families. From then on, Rankin became an outspoken advocate for suffrage. That fall, Washington became the fifth state in the nation to give women the right to vote.

Rankin soon returned to Montana and began to work for suffrage there. Before long, the Equal Franchise Society asked her to address the Montana legislature. Because Rankin was the first woman to address the state legislature, her speech created quite a stir. In honor of her arrival at the State Capitol in Helena, the legislators were banned from smoking and spittoons were removed from the room. Legislators were warned not to swear, and they chipped in to buy Rankin a bouquet of violets to welcome her.

“I was born in Montana,”[2] Rankin said when she began her remarks. This gave her credibility most people were born out of state and moved to Montana. She addressed the need for the vote in a non-threatening way. “It’s beautiful and right that a woman should nurse her sick children through typhoid fever, but it’s also beautiful and right that she should vote for sanitary measures to prevent that typhoid from spreading,” she said. [3] She argued that suffrage would not disrupt the social order it would allow women to be better caretakers of children and families.

Jeannette Rankin (right) and Carrie Chapman Catt (left) on the balcony at NAWSA headquarters. Collections of the Library of Congress ( The suffrage bill failed that year. Undeterred, Rankin continued her efforts, traveling thousands of miles across Montana, working with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and becoming one of the leading voices about suffrage in America. Three years later – in 1914 – Montana became the tenth state to grant women the right to vote. After the vote in Montana, Rankin traveled and assessed her next steps. She decided to run for the U.S. Congress. “The primal motive for my seeking a seat in the national Congress is to further the suffrage work and to aid in every possible way the movement for nationwide suffrage, which will not cease until it is won,” she said.[4]

She wasn’t concerned that there had never been a woman in Congress. She believed that women needed a voice in government to speak out against war and in favor of children’s issues. “There are hundreds of men [in Congress] to care for the nation’s tariff and foreign policy and irrigation projects. But there isn’t a single woman to look after the nation’s greatest asset: its children.”[5] Rankin’s brother Wellington offered to help. “I’ll manage your campaign,” he said. “And you’ll be elected.” [6]

In addition to suffrage, Rankin supported an 8-hour work day for women and legal protections for children, especially orphans. When her critics argued that “A woman’s place is in the home,” she responded, “The way to protect the home is to have a say in the government.”[7] In 1916, when she was thirty-six years old, Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

On April 2, 1917, suffragists honored Rankin at a breakfast before her first day on Capitol Hill. The war in Europe had been intensifying, and Rankin’s suffragist friends feared that the country might be drawn into the war. They reminded her that the cause of suffrage would be compromised if she voted against the war because women would be seen as weak and unfit for politics. Rankin listened but made no promises about what she would do.

The same day, President Woodrow Wilson called an emergency session of Congress and asked them to vote to “make the world safe for democracy” by entering the war. No matter what she did, Rankin knew she would disappoint a lot of people. In her campaign, Rankin had promised to do everything she could to keep the country out of war. Although not a Quaker, Rankin had developed her pacifist beliefs in her childhood and thus had held them most of her life. Her brother Wellington urged Rankin to save her political career and “Vote a man’s vote”[8] by standing with the president. After only six days in Congress, Rankin cast her first vote. At three o’clock in the morning, her name was called and she said, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war. I vote ‘no.’”[9]

Jeannette Rankin (standing right) and Carrie Chapman Catt (standing left) riding in a car outside NAWSA headquarters. Collections of the Library of Congress ( The war measure passed without her support or that of fifty other Congressmen. “You know, you are not going to be re-elected,” Wellington said. “I’m not interested in that,” Rankin said. “All I am interested in is what they will say fifty years from now.”[10] Rankin did not regret her decision. “Never for one second could I face the idea that I would send your men to be killed for no other reason than to save my seat in Congress,” she later said.[11]

Rankin tried to make the most of her time in Congress. As promised, she championed the suffrage amendment and pushed President Wilson and Congress to support the measure. On January 10, 1918, Rankin addressed Congress on the suffrage question. “How shall we explain… the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted for war to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?” she asked.[12] The resolution for women’s suffrage passed in the House by 274 to 136. Though it did not pass in the Senate, momentum was building.

As expected, Rankin did not win reelection. The following year, after Rankin left office, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which gave women in all states the right to vote after its ratification in 1920. The suffrage issue had been settled, but Rankin continued her career in public service. After leaving Congress, she moved to a farm in Georgia and worked with the Georgia Peace Society. Almost twenty years after she left Congress, she decided to return to Montana and run for the U.S. House of Representatives again. In 1940 she ran on the promise that she would keep America out of war. She won a second chance to represent her home state.

On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor the following day, 60-year-old Rankin once again voted against entering the war. This time she was the sole vote against entering the fight, making her the only person to have voted against American involvement in World War I and World War II. Again, her political career lasted only a single term, but for Rankin, that was not the point. As she later told a friend, “I have nothing left except my integrity.”[13]

This article was originally published by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) on May 6, 2020 as a part of the WSCC blog, The Suff Buffs. The Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission was created by Congress to commemorate 100 years of the 19th Amendment throughout 2020 and to ensure the untold stories of women’s battle for the ballot continue to inspire Americans for the next 100 years.

Author Biography

Winifred Conkling is the author of Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot (Algonquin Young Readers, 2018.) She is the award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers.

[1] O’Brien, Mary Barmeyer. Jeannette Rankin: Bright Star in the Big Sky. Helena: Rowan & Littlefield, 1995 p. 37.

[3] Aronson, Peter. Jeannette Rankin: America’s First Congresswoman. New York: Double M. Books, 2019 p. 24.

[5] Woelfle, Gretchen. Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2007 p. 43.

[7] Marx, Trish. Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.

[8] Josephson, Hannah. Jeannette Rankin: First Lady in Congress. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1974 p. 73.

[10] Norma Smith, Jeannette Rankin: America’s Conscience. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2002 p. 112.


Aronson, Peter. Jeannette Rankin: America’s First Congresswoman. New York: Double M. Books, 2019.

Giles, Kevin S. One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story. St. Petersburg, FL:, 2016.

Josephson, Hannah. Jeannette Rankin: First Lady in Congress. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1974.

Lopach, James, and Luckowski, Jean A. Jeannette Rankin: A Political Woman. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Marx, Trish. Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.

O’Brien, Mary Barmeyer. Jeannette Rankin: Bright Star in the Big Sky. Helena: Rowan & Littlefield, 1995.

Norma Smith, Jeannette Rankin: America’s Conscience. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2002.

Woelfle, Gretchen. Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2007.

Jeannette Rankin Residence

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Jeannette Rankin graduated from the University of Montana in 1902. She studied social work in New York City and worked in an orphanage before deciding that she wanted to focus on the root causes of society’s problems. Realizing that “to have decent laws for children, sanitary jails, [and] safe food supplies, women would have to vote,” Rankin became a full-time suffrage organizer in 1910. After successful campaigns in Washington and California, she returned to Montana, where she helped pass the state’s suffrage amendment in 1914. Supported by Montana’s newly enfranchised women voters, Jeannette Rankin won election to Congress in 1916, becoming the nation’s first female representative. Her first vote was against the United States’ entry into World War I. After a term in the House, Rankin lost her bid for Senate in 1918, in part because her support of striking miners had made an enemy of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Unable to secure reelection, Rankin became a full-time peace activist. She purchased a home near Athens, Georgia, but kept her legal residence in Montana, spending every summer from 1923 to 1956 here. In 1940, Rankin once again ran for Congress. Montanans sent her back to the House, where she cast the sole vote against U.S. entrance into World War II. Although Jeannette’s brother Wellington owned this property, she spent more time living in the simple, frame ranch house than he did. Due to this association, the National Park Service designated ninety acres of the ranch as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Where to Learn More


Block, Judy Rachel. The First Woman in Congress: Jeannette Rankin. New York: C.P.I., 1978.

Giles, Kevin. Flight of the Dove: The Story of Jeannette Rankin. Beaverton, OR: Touchstone Press, 1980.

Josephson, Hannah. First Lady in Congress: Jeannette Rankin. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974.

Morin, Isabel. Women of the U.S. Congress. Minneapolis, MN: Oliver Press, 1994.


Regele, Susan, writer, Ronald Bayley, producer, and Nancy Landgren, director. Jeannette Rankin: The Woman Who Voted No. Video Recording. PBS Video, 1984.

Watch the video: Δημόσιος εξευτελισμός του Αυγενάκη από τον Ιβάν Σαββίδη (May 2022).