Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Committed to women's rights, the rights of the poor (with whom she had worked in the Lower East Side of New York City), and the establishment of a participatory democracy welcoming input from all citizens, Rankin was a woman of the people and, as such, was so popular that she was elected in 1916 and again in 1940.
Unfortunately for Rankin's political career, her vote against sending the U.S. into World War I cost her much support because, even though forty-nine other Congressional Representatives voted against joining the war effort, as well, Rankin, as the only woman in Congress, was already hanging by a thread. Consequently, her first term ended the year before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally enacted, giving women the right to vote.
Rankin, however, stayed busy. She lobbied to promote maternal and child health care. She moved into a one-room cabin without electricity in Georgia and began the Georgia Peace Society (which many Georgians called treasonous, accusing her of being a Communist). And she went back to Congress in 1940 and again voted against entering a world war (the only member of Congress to do so). "As a woman, I can't go to war," she told her fellow Congressional Representatives, "and I refuse to send anyone else."
Needless to say, she was sent packing the next election day, so she retired from electoral politics, but when the Vietnam War reared its ugly head nearly thirty years later, Rankin -- now 88-years-old -- organized and sent thousands of young protesters to Washington, D.C., calling themselves the Jeanette Rankin Brigade. In-your-face women stand for something and will, when necessary, stand alone.