Jeannette Rankin Becomes First U.S. Congresswoman Elected – 1916

Posted on November 7, 2014 by Jennifer Stingley at
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Jeannette Rankin, 1917

Jeannette Rankin, 1917. Ms. Rankin helped Montana women win the right to vote in 1914, and in 1916, was elected as the first Congresswoman in America. (Image is public domain, and is available from the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.)

November 7, 1916 (Montana) – Jeannette Rankin was elected as one of Montana’s two congressional delegates on this day in history.

Born and raised on a farm outside Missoula, Jeannette was educated at the University of Montana and the New York School of Philanthropy.  After graduation, she was a social worker before directing her attention to the suffragist movement.  With Colorado and Wyoming already allowing women to vote, Rankin theorized that the pioneer conditions on the frontier had created a higher respect for women and their worth, and in 1914, she helped women earn their suffrage in the state of Montana.

Two years later, Jeannette was elected the first federal Congresswoman.  Her very first vote in Washington was against joining WWI, due to her pacifist leanings.  Although 55 others also voted to abstain from war, constituents in Montana took this as a sign that she wasn’t capable of making the difficult decisions required of national leaders, and she lost her seat in the 1918 election.

Interestingly, Rankin was elected to Congress once again in 1940, and this time, was the only voice of dissent when Congress voted to join WWII following the bombing of Pearl Harbor a year later.


Other Events Today in History

  • 1861 – Battle of Belmont, Missouri (Civil War)
  • 1944 – FDR wins election for fourth term
  • 1972 – Nixon re-elected
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Jennifer Lynn Stingley, "Jeannette Rankin Becomes First U.S. Congresswoman Elected – 1916," Ancestor Archaeology, 7 November 2014 ( : accessed [24 September 2018]).

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