On the 4th in 1917, Jeannette Rankin of Montana assumed her seat in the United States House of Representatives. She was the first woman elected to that body. It should be noted that at the time of her election the 19th amendment to our Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, had yet to be ratified. Most politicians are notable for their tendency to be wishy-washy. Remarkably, Rankin was wonderfully consistent over the course of her very long career. She was one of the fifty members of Congress to vote against the nation entering World War I. She was the only member of Congress to vote against entering World War II. After her Congressional career was over, did she go on the lecture circuit? Not a chance. She still manned the barricades and was a leader in the opposition to the Vietnam War. It is not terribly surprising to learn that she was a founding member of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Rankin was in good company at the ACLU. Her fellow founding members were Helen Keller, Jane Addams, Crystal Eastman and Albert DeSilver, all of them having illustrious careers outside of their activist careers.
The Women's International League was an outgrowth of the Women’s Peace Party, which had been formed in 1915 at a meeting in Washington, D.C. that had been called for by Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt. Addams was the first woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and, more importantly, was a cousin of cartoonist Charles Addams. Catt was a close associate of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.