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Elected To Congress – A Woman Of Many Firsts

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Her name was Jeannette Rankin, and she was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Born and raised on a ranch in Montana, she went to college in New York and worked as a social worker before becoming active in the national effort to give women the right to vote.

So, with that job done – why not actually run for office?

And she did, and won a seat in Congress on this date, November 7, in 1916. When she traveled to Washington, a lot of people wondered if a woman could handle the responsibilities of such a high office. But she was a dedicated pacifist and her first vote as U.S. Congresswoman – she voted against U.S. entering into World War I.

A lot of people thought she made a courageous stand, but most others thought it just showed that women couldn’t handle the pressures of national leadership. 55 men also voted against the war, but voters never forgot Rankin’s no vote and voted her out when she ran for re-election in 1918.

For the next 20 years, Rankin continued to work for the cause of peace. She ran for Congress again in 1940 and won, but the following year she was faced with another war vote following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. With her no vote, Rankin became the only person in the history of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into both world wars. This time, hers was the only no vote.

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