Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Such A Nasty Woman
In 1916, four years before women nationwide won the right to vote, Montana’s Jeannette Rankin—the first woman elected to Congress—captured a House seat. (Montana granted women the vote in 1914.) A fighter for woman suffrage, the dedicated pacifist also was among 50 House members opposing U.S. entry into World War I.
Rankin narrowly lost a race for the Senate in 1918 but returned to the House in 1941. That December, as Pearl Harbor still smoldered from the Japanese attack, Rankin cast the sole vote against war. “As a woman I can’t go to war,” she said, “and I refuse to send anyone else.” After the vote, Rankin had to barricade herself in a phone booth until the Capitol Police escorted her to safety.
“Man-on-the-Street” interviews were not kind:
A Madison, Wisconsin, woman alluded to Ms. Rankin without mentioning her name:
"I believe that American womanhood, as a whole, feels ashamed and humiliated that our one woman representative in Congress kept the vote to declare war form being unanimous."
Another woman from Madison said
"I certainly was burned up when Miss Rankin gave all her male colleagues an opportunity to say "just like a woman." Because there's a lot of us who haven't had sheltered lives. We've been out and met life in a hard way and we are resolute and military as our British sisters."
But even some folks who disagreed with her were in awe:
In response to that vote, the renowned editor William Allen White wrote an editorial in the Emporia Gazette:
"Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase: 'The female of the species is more deadly than the male.' Well, look at Jeannette Rankin. Probably a hundred men in Congress would have liked to do what she did. Not one of them had the courage to do it. The Gazette entirely disagrees with the wisdom of her position. But, Lord, it was a brave thing! And its bravery someway discounted its folly.
When, in a hundred years from now, courage, sheer courage based upon moral indignation, is celebrated in this country, the name of Jeannette Rankin, who stood firm in folly for her faith, will be written in monumental bronze not for what she did but for the way she did it."
PS--More on Rankin in Women who Speak for Peace.