International Women’s Day: Jeannette Rankin


The best thing that happened to me today was being reminded of Jeannette Rankin–the first woman elected to the US Congress (in 1916, before women could vote) and the first woman elected to a legislature in a western democracy. She voted against both world war I and world war II, expressing her views on war thusly:

“There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.”

A feminist, Rankin did not marry and had no children; in the middle of the 20th century she tried to start a women’s commune on her farm in Georgia. Here’s what she has to say about the social role of women:

“The individual woman is required . . . a thousand times a day to choose either to accept her appointed role and thereby rescue her good disposition out of the wreckage of her self-respect, or else follow an independent line of behavior and rescue her self-respect out of the wreckage of her good disposition.”

In 1968, she led a major protest against the Vietnam War–at the age of 88. She can’t ever be accused of lacking courage, and her words are a good admonishment to those of us who, like me, worry a bit too much about being nice:

“If I had my life to live over, I would do it all again, but this time I would be nastier.”

Photo Credit: US Library of Congress, Public Domain

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