Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Woman in the House

Currently, there are 83 women who serve in the United States House of Representatives. That is 19.1% of the 435 House members, and about 3/4 of those 83 are Democrats. There have not always been women in the House, however.
Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first female to serve in the U.S. Congress. In fact, it was 100 years ago this week that she became the first woman in the House.
Rankin was born in 1880 in Montana Territory, nine years before it became a state. In 1914, women’s suffrage was passed in both Montana and Nevada. They thus became the tenth and eleventh states to give women the right to vote.
Rankin had joined the suffrage movement in 1910 when she was working in an orphanage in Seattle. Partly because of her efforts, Washington voted for women’s suffrage in November of that year. 

Rankin then moved back to Montana, and in February 1911 she made her case for women's suffrage before the Montana legislature. That was the first time a woman had spoken to that body. It took until November of 1914, but then Montana also decided to allow women to vote.
Rankin decided to run in 1916 as a Republican for one of the two U.S. House of Representatives seats from Montana—and she won! In her first time to vote she voted for herself.
Rankin was introduced in Congress as its first female member on April 2, 1917.
On the very day she took office, Pres. Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany, and on April 6 the vote went to the House.
Rankin was one of 50 representatives who voted against the American declaration of war—and she became the one most criticized for her negative vote.
Knowing she had little chance of being re-elected to the House, in 1918 Rankin ran for the Senate. However, she was unsuccessful. She was then no longer a member of Congress until her election in 1940 to serve once more as a Representative from Montana.
Soon, on Dec. 8, 1941, Congress voted once again on another declaration of war. Also, once again, Rankin voted against going to war—and this time she was the only one to cast a dissenting vote.
She was also once again widely maligned for voting against war. Here was the headline in one newspaper: 

Rankin, however, was consistently against war during her long lifetime.
In 1967, at the age of 87 and sixty years after first taking a seat in Congress, she organized the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, an organization that publicly protested against the Vietnam War.
Rankin died in 1973 at the age of 93.
The nation has moved considerably toward women’s equality since 1917—but many would argue not nearly far enough. Perhaps more women would mean a more peaceful country and a more peaceful world.
Not all women are against war the way Jeannette Rankin was. Still, there may be great truth in these words she spoke in 1925:
The work of educating the world for peace is a woman’s job, because men are afraid of being classed as cowards.
Maybe we should also agree with this statement: 

However, not all women are the same. I am not impressed by, nor a supporter of, the two women among the current eight U.S. Representatives from Missouri.
The women I want in Congress are people like Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who has served in the House since 1998--and like Jeannette Rankin, the first woman in the House.


  1. I as Just Peace person was aware of Jeannette Rankin and her votes against US involvement in World Wars I and II. Remarkable gutsy lady. Who are the two women US Reps from MO. I'm well aware of Clare McCaskell in the Senate. I do not always agree with her, but certainly could abide more like her in the Senate.

    Thanx as always for your blogs.

    Charles Kiker

    1. Thanks, Charles for reading and responding to this morning's article.

      While we don't necessarily agree with her 100%, my wife and I are fairly strong supporters of Sen. Claire McCaskill and have enjoyed chatting with her a couple of times.

      The two Mo. Reps are Ann Wagner in the St. Louis area and Vicky Hartzler in the west-central part of the state. I don't know much about Rep. Wagner, but Rep. Hartzler is closer to the part of the state where I live, although represents the 4th district, not the 6th district that I am in.

      Back in 2011 I wrote a blog article in which I made considerable reference to Hartzler. Here is the link to that article:

      If all women were like Hartzler, I don't think I could say there is a need for more women in Congress.

  2. Thank you for this article, Leroy. I love Jeannette Rankin and only learned about her for the first time last year. Maybe I was goofing off during that part of high school history class, or maybe they didn't teach me about her on purpose. Who knows? But she was an amazing woman.
    Last November, while most of us were distracted by the outcome of the Presidential race, several other amazing women were elected. In my opinion, these included Kamala Harris (California), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada) and Tammy Duckworth (Illinois). So when despair tempts us, let us re-member these women & believe anew that radical change is possible - even in the USA in 2017.
    Click here for more info on these women currently serving our nation:

    1. Thanks, ** (since you didn't use your name I guess maybe I shouldn't use it either). I didn't know what a rafiki is until I looked it up or who wrote this until I look that up also, but I appreciate your reading the blog article this morning and for sharing pertinent comments.

      I agree that the four women you mention (and that are mentioned in the Time article) are "amazing women," and I am happy that they are all now in Congress. I also wish there were more like them.

      But the title of the article is "Meet the Female Politicians Who Added Cracks to the Glass Ceiling Last Night," and as I wrote in my response to Charles Kiker above, there are some women whom I would just as soon not have in Congress.

      While I want to stand by my statement that there should be more women in Congress, I don't think women should be supported (or voted for) just because they are women--or that something good has necessarily been achieved just because the person elected was a women.

      A person's position on important social/economic/ethical issues is more important than that person's gender. Much of the time, perhaps women have a better position on such issues--and especially on the tremendously important issue of war and peace--than men. But, unfortunately, not always.

  3. As he often does, Thinking Friend Eric Dollard has sent comments worth considering:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your comments about Jeannette Rankin and women's rights.

    "Sometimes I think that ONLY women should be allowed to serve in Congress, and in all the other legislative bodies of the world. I have no doubt there would be far less warfare.

    "In retrospect, it is clear that Rankin had voted against U. S. involvement in one of the stupidest wars in history, World War I. If World War I had not occurred, there would probably have been no World War II, at least in Europe. One has to admire Rankin's courage and commitment to peace.

    "The World War I museum in Kansas City does a good job of illustrating the horrors of warfare and of World War I in particular."

  4. Thank you, Leroy. Please feel free to use my name. (The rafiki signature is leftover from when I previously created the account.)

    Sorry if my previous comment was unclear, as I think you and I are on total agreement. Of course "all women are not the same." And I also agree we shouldn't vote for a woman just because she's a woman, as "a person's position on important social/economic/ethical issues is more important than that person's gender" - and, as I've learned, more important than that person's race, ethnicity, etc.

    This is why, in the primaries, I voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in Missouri's open primary - even though I am a loud & proud feminist. In particular, I oppose Hillary Clinton's policies on war & corporate welfare because of how these devastate the lives of already struggling, hard-working women here at home & around the world.

    The above comment intends to highlight newly elected women who will advocate for environmental protection & socio-economic equity for all people in the U.S., regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Though I don't agree with them on every issue (after all, who in the world agrees with me on EVERYTHING?), I am inspired by most of what they support & hopeful they opened the door for more women like them to follow in their footsteps.

    In particular, I rejoice in Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar's victory. She is not only a woman & mother of three but also represents the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party & is a Muslim-American originally from war-torn Somalia who lived four years in a Kenyan refugee camp. Because of her roots, rhetoric & track record, I believe she will continue "her career fighting against racism, religious intolerance and economic inequality" - as the article says. Rep. Omar knows more about the immorality of war than any of us readers, writers & thinkers here. And if Jeanette Rankin were alive today, I think she would rejoice with us in Ilhan's election and consider her an ally.

    Let's figure out how Minnesota succeeded in (A) organizing a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and (B) getting Ms. Omar elected. Then, let's try their strategies here in Kansas & Missouri. Who would like to learn with me?

    1. I suspect the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is as much a cause as an effect of Minnesota's progressivism. After the last election, my daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon pointed out that all three of my children had carried their states (also California and Minnesota), so what was the matter with me? Well, I too voted for Sanders in the Missouri primary, but it all went downhill from there. Quite simply, I believe a successful Democratic party needs to balance civil rights with economic justice, or it will continue to be destroyed by the joint opposition of Republican oligarchs and progressive warriors against Identity Politics. Martin Luther King branched out from civil rights to economic justice and peace in Vietnam. I find it noteworthy that he died, not crossing the bridge in Selma, but supporting a garbage workers' strike in Memphis. Hillary was deep in Identity Politics, and very shallow in everything else. Jill Stein was the only candidate who made it to the North Dakota pipeline protests, and, unfortunately, Donald Trump was the only candidate who said "American Carnage" out loud. That was much louder than Hillary's coal country pledge to do "something." Sad. Very sad.