Jeannette Rankin: a snapshot biography

Jeannette Rankin
Jeannette Rankin

“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.” – Jeannette Rankin

Born on the frontier in Montana in 1880, Jeannette Rankin grew up with a love for nature, an independent spirit, and much tenacity. But she also experienced a lot of violence and wars with Native American tribes, leading to a lifetime commitment to being a pacifist. 

She brought her values to politics. In 1916, she ran for office on a platform of suffrage, social welfare, and prohibition. Elected to represent Montana in the House of Representatives, she became the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. 

Jeannette Rankin portrait, circa 1917
Jeannette Rankin, circa 1917

“I am deeply conscious of the responsibility, and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to be the first woman to sit in Congress. I will not only represent the women of Montana, but also the women of the country, and I have plenty of work cut out for me,” she said.

Jeannette was elected to the House of Representatives twice; in 1916 and again in 1940.


“A snapshot biography of Jeannette Rankin” sources: Harris, Ted C. “Jeannette Rankin in Georgia.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 1, 1974, pp. 55–78. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40579668. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021. / Bain News Service, Publisher. Jeannette Rankin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2014704009/> / Wikimedia Commons (restored by Adam Cuerden) / Speaking in Congress, 1918 – Wikiquote / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Margaret Sterling Brooke –  NPG.86.8