Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was an American politician and women's rights advocate, and the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana in 1916, and again in 1940.
Speaking in Congress (1918)
In Women at the Podium: Memorable Speeches in History (2000)
- Might it not be that men who have spent their lives thinking in terms of commercial profit find it hard to adjust themselves to thinking in terms of human needs? Might it not be that a great force which has always been thinking in terms of human needs, and that always will think in terms of human needs, has not been mobilized? Is it not possible that the women of the country have something of value to give the country at this time?
- It would be strange indeed if the women of this country, through all these years, had not developed an intelligence, a feeling, a spiritual force to themselves which they hold in readiness to give the world. It would be strange indeed if the influence of women through direct participation in the political struggles, through which all social and industrial development proceeds, would not lend a certain virility, a certain influx of new strength and understanding and sympathy and ability to the exhausting effort we are now making to meet the problem before us.
- For seventy years, the women leaders of this country have been asking the government to recognize this possibility. Every great woman who stands out in our history-Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clara Barton, Mary Livermore, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frances Willard, Lucy Stone, Jane Addams, Ella Flagg Young, Alice Stone Blackwell, Anna Howard Shaw, Mrs. Catt-all have asked the government to permit women to serve more effectively the national welfare. All have felt that the energy, the thought, and the suffering that was spent in trying to obtain permission to serve directly should as quickly as possible be turned to the actual service.
- the nation needs its women-needs the work of their hands and their hearts and their minds.
- It is time for our old political doctrines to give way to the new visions
- How can people in other countries who are trying to grasp our plan of democracy avoid stumbling over our logic when we deny the first steps in democracy to our women? May they not see a distinction between the government of the United States and the women of the United States?
- Can we afford to allow these men and women to doubt for a single instant the sincerity of our protestations of democracy? How shall we answer their challenge, gentlemen? How shall we explain to them 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?
Quotes about Jeanette Rankin
- Whatever her subsequent political shortcomings may have been, progressive women were very proud of her at that time (around 1917).
- Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography, My First Life (1955)
- Jeannette Rankin had just begun to serve her term as Representative from Montana when the infamous war resolution sponsored by Wilson came crashing into Congress for immediate attention, with the eyes and ears of the world waiting for the verdict. I had been hanging around the Capitol all day on April 5, and had gone home late that night, sick at heart because I was sure the measure was going to pass. About 3 a.m. the vote of the House was taken with 50 members against and 373 for war. I heard about the ordeal next day from those who had seen the session through. As the roll was called, and the reading clerk shouted "Rankin of Montana!", there was no response. Then, louder: "RANKIN OF MONTANA!" Visibly overcome and sobbing in despair, she answered: "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.' So Jeannette Rankin, in that nest of dominant males, made herself heard. If the manner was essentially feminine, nevertheless it was truly the voice of the maternal instinct which seeks to protect life rather than destroy it.
- Art Young - His Life And Times (1939)
- In Congress, a few voices spoke out against the war. The first woman in the House of Representatives, Jeannette Rankin, did not respond when her name was called in the roll call on the declaration of war. One of the veteran politicians of the House, a supporter of the war, went to her and whispered, "Little woman, you cannot afford not to vote. You represent the womanhood of the country. Next roll call she stood up: "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war. I vote No."
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States