Jeanette Rankin

Jeanette Rankin graduated from the brand-new University of Montana with a degree in biology and worked as a teacher, seamstress, and social worker. She had several proposals, but-having grown up with much responsibility for rearing her six younger siblings. At age thirty, she began to fight to get Montana women the right to vote. Most people thought she had no chance. In Washington, petty problems included the lack of women's bathrooms in the Capitol, plus fear from the wives of congressmen. Her sixth day on the job, she became one of the fifty-six unpopular members of Congress who voted against entering World War I. “I felt," she insisted later, "that the first time the first woman had a chance to say no war, she would say it." She had finally found her "where" - pacifism. For the next twenty years, Rankin worked day and night for world peace. She saw war as a tragic waste: "You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake." Soon President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. The vote was 388 to 1. She was serene and confident, but the crowd burst into boos. In the madness of flashbulbs and the crush of angry people against her, she slipped into a phone booth and called the police to escort her back to her office. She was instantly notorious as the only person to vote against both World Wars. No one supported her. Rankin returned to lecturing on world peace. Famous for her lemon meringue pie, she befriended children from the neighborhood, seeking their opinions, sharing stories of her life. In Washington, in 1967, at eighty-seven years old, she led a silent march of five thousand women dressed in black. She hired a motorcycle-riding young man as her assistant; he cooked health foods (she drank raw eggs) and worked at keeping her in the public eye. She died peacefully at age ninety-two. She once hinted that the penalty for her years of protest had been steep: "Look at me- unmarried and unemployed most of my life!"

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