November 7, 1916: Jeannette Rankin becomes the first female member of Congress.

Four years before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Jeannette Rankin, a Republican, pacifist, and suffragist from Montana, was elected to the House of Representatives. Prior to her election, she worked for the women’s suffrage movement, and, thanks in part to Rankin’s efforts, her home state gave women the right to vote in 1914. 

Rankin was reviled for most of her two terms, but not for incompetence. In 1918, she was one of the few in the House who voted against the United States’ entrance into World War I. Of her vote, she said “I felt the first time the first woman had a chance to say no to war she should say it”, but other suffragists (like Carrie Chapman Catt) criticized her vote as a discredit to the movement and to her own authority. In 1941, when she was elected to Congress for the second time, Rankin was the sole voice of opposition in both the House and Senate against America’s entry into World War II. 

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