National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1907-1930: We are a diverse nation, confronting our differences

November 9, 1916
Jeannette Rankin becomes first woman elected to Congress

Jeanette Rankin

A Republican from Montana, Jeannette Rankin in 1916 became the first woman elected to Congress. Active in the women’s suffrage movement, she opened congressional debate on the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Rankin dedicated herself to anti-war efforts. Soon after taking her seat in Congress, Rankin voted against U.S. participation in World War I. In 1918 Rankin ran unsuccessfully for Senate as an independent.

With war brewing again, she returned to Congress in 1941. This time, she was one of six women in the House and two in the Senate. When Congress declared war on the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, Rankin cast the only “no” vote. She retired from Congress in 1943, knowing that vote killed any chance for re-election.

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