Jeannette Rankin

First woman member of Congress

Why She’s Amazing

Jeannette didn’t want to be a princess. She wanted to be more.

Jeannette wanted to change the world. It wasn’t an easy task, but she didn’t waver under the pressure. Instead, her determination, drive and passion led to the 19th Amendment of giving women the right to vote.

As a strong supporter of women’s rights, Jeannette worked to improve the quality of life for women across the country. In doing so, she partnered with numerous women’s suffrage groups, including in one in Washington D.C.

  • Jeannette thrived on her time in Washington D.C. and decided to run for Congress. With all odds against her, Jeannette’s belief in herself made all the difference. In
  • 1916, she became the first woman to serve in Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives. Upon winning, Jeannette proudly said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”
  • She was right. When Jeannette ran for a second term, she wasn’t the only woman running or the only woman to secure a victory. Amazingly, Jeannette’s focus on empowering women was already seeing results.

“We’re half the people; we should be half the Congress.” – Jeannette Rankin

Her Determination

Jeannette never wavered in her belief in women’s rights. The fact that she couldn’t vote merely because she was a woman was something Jeanette would not accept. She had no tolerance for inequality and persevered against many who opposed her beliefs.

In addition to women’s rights, Jeannette found herself an unlikely and unpopular advocate of pacifist solutions during World War I and World War II. She voted against going to both wars and was the only member of Congress to do so during World War II. In both instances, her votes led to her lose the next election.

Despite this, her determination never faltered. Jeannette didn’t concern herself with what was popular, only with what she thought mattered. Societal beliefs didn’t sway her; Jeannette wanted to change the world in her own way.

A True Inspiration

Jeannette and her legacy continue to provide inspiration to women nationwide. The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund awards annual educational scholarships to low-income women ages 35 and older across the United States. Beginning with a single $500 scholarship in 1978, the Fund has since awarded more than $1.8 million in scholarships to more than 700 women.

Still, Jeannette considered her greatest achievement to be promoting rights for women, which culminated in the ability for women to vote. She changed the course of our nation by empowering women to believe they are worthy of the same rights as men.

“If I am remembered for no other act,” Jeannette said, “I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote.”

For that, women ever since and for generations to come are forever in her debt.

Fun Facts:

  • A statue of Jeannette, inscribed with “I Cannot Vote For War”, was placed in the United States Capitol’s Statuary Hall in 1985.
  • To ensure she was heard when voting against World War I and World War II, Jeannette spoke out of turn both times.
  • Jeannette became a prominent member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
  • Jeannette, who never married, bequeathed her estate to help “mature, unemployed women workers”.
  • In 1968, she led the 5,000+-person Jeannette Rankin Brigade, to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate against the Vietnam War.