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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.
"As a woman I can’t go to war ... and I refuse to send anyone else."
—Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, 1941
In a Capitol phone booth, Jeannette Rankin calls for assistance following her vote against war on December 8, 1941.
Here, in a rare photograph of the House in session, Jeannette Rankin addresses her colleagues during her first term in Congress, 1917–1919.
National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
Before electronic voting, a clerk called the roll and tallied the "yeas" and "nays." This roll call of December 8, 1941, recorded Jeannette Rankin of Montana as the only vote opposing the declaration of war against Japan.
Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.