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Jeannette Rankin: About

Jeannette Rankin

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Who was Jeannette Rankin?

Jeannette Rankin was born on June 11, 1880 on her parent's ranch near Missoula, Montana. She was the oldest of six children. Her parents, John (a Canadian immigrant) and Olive Rankin had traveled to Montana in search of gold. They later established their ranch and became successful business people. In the 1890s, under the Homestead Act of 1862, the Rankins added another 160 acres to their ranch.

While growing up, Rankin worked on her family ranch. Her jobs included farm and household chores, maintaining machinery, and helping build things. Later she recalled noticing that, while frontier women and men worked the land side by side “proving up” a homestead as equals, they did not have equal access to the vote. Rankin graduated with a biology degree from the University of Montana in 1902. Her travels took her to San Francisco, New York City, and Spokane, Washington. She became involved in the women's suffrage movement while at the University of Washington. She helped to organize the New York Women's Suffrage Party and worked as a lobbyist for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In February 1911, she returned to Montana, and became the first woman to argue for women's suffrage in front of the state legislature. In November, 1914, Montana granted women unrestricted voting rights. The suffrage amendment had its largest support from the homestead counties in the eastern portion of the state. Montana had a particularly high number of women homesteaders, as its settlement coincided with larger numbers of women choosing to homestead in the twentieth century.

In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in US history elected to the House of Representatives. This was remarkable because most American women were not able to vote until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920. She was a member of the Republican Party. She was the first federally elected woman in the United States elected at the age of 36 to the U.S. House of Representatives as one of two congressional representatives for Montana. Continue reading from National Park Service

From our Collection

Link to The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss in the Catalog
Link to She Votes: How US Women Won Suffrage by Bridget Quinn in the Catalog
Link to Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote by Kerrie Logan Holihan in Freading
Link to A Woman in the House (And Senate) by Ilene Cooper in the Catalog
Link to World War I: Montana by Ken Robison in Freading