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Jeannette Pickering Rankin. Gelatin silver print, c. 1917, by L. Chase. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Margaret Sterling Brooke.


Rankin, Jeannette Pickering (11 June 1880–18 May 1973), first woman in Congress and peace activist, was born near Missoula, Montana, the daughter of John Rankin, a successful developer, and Olive Pickering, a former schoolteacher. The eldest of seven surviving children, Rankin exhibited considerable sangfroid and sense of responsibility from an early age. An indifferent student at Montana State University in Missoula (now the University of Montana), she lacked direction upon her graduation in 1902. Following an eye-opening tour of the slums of Boston in 1904, she enrolled in the New York School of Philanthropy, which later became the Columbia University School of Social Work. After brief and dissatisfying service as a social worker in Spokane, Washington, she enrolled in a wide range of courses at the University of Washington in Seattle, where in 1910 she began her career in woman suffrage. During a visit to her home state in December of that year she stunned the Montana populace when, in an address on behalf of the Equal Franchise Society, she became the first woman to speak to the legislature....