Jeanette Rankin addressing the House of Representatives April 1917
The Senate passed the war resolution on April 4, with six votes against. The House took up the measure the next day. Rankin stayed at her new apartment until late in the afternoon, agonizing over the vote. Alice Paul, head of the National Woman’s Party, sat with her. She told Rankin that she had an obligation as the first woman in Congress to give voice to her woman’s conscience. It would be a tragedy, Paul said, to vote for war.
In the evening Rankin appeared at the Capitol. The debate was dragging on, and April 5 became April 6. At 3 a.m., the roll was called. “Miss Rankin was evidently under great mental distress,” the New York Times reported. “Her appearance was that of a woman on the verge of a breakdown.”
Would she betray her cause by voting against war? Or would she betray her conscience by voting in favor?
She remained silent, and the clerk moved on. Rep. Joseph Cannon, the former Republican House speaker, came up to her and told her to vote as her conscience dictated. “You represent the womanhood of the country,” he said.
The clerk went through the roll again. “Miss Rankin,” he called out twice.
She stood, clasped the back of the seat in front of her. “I want to stand by my country — but I cannot vote for war,” she said. Does that, the clerk asked, mean no? She nodded, dry-eyed, and sat down.
Eliza Collins had a very interesting piece in USA Today - another great 'share' from Heather - on Arizona Representative Martha McSally who aims to be a leading Republican voice on women's issues:
“Women have made great strides and have achieved so much in this country, but the fact remains that so many women and girls still face barriers to achieving their full potential,” Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who chairs the Women in the 21st Century Workforce working group, said as she kicked off the hearing in late March. “Many women today are struggling to balance the competing demands from their workplace and their families. They are expected to do it all, and they are exhausted.”
McSally — a retired Air Force colonel and the first female fighter pilot to fly a combat mission — came up with the idea for the group after she joined Congress in 2014 and saw a lack of conversation about women’s issues from members of her own party.
When Rankin broke through the representation barrier, Montana elected two House seats statewide rather than in separate districts. 1916 was a tough year for Republicans in Montana, with Democratic presidential nominee Woodrow Wilson easily winning the state. But Rankin won by finishing second. A year later the legislature carved the state into districts, gerrymandering Rankin into a more Democratic one. She unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat.
Rankin’s win in a multi-winner election was no accident. Women consistently have had more electoral success when candidates can run as a team. In 2013, for example, women held an average of 31 percent of state legislative seats in the 10 states with multi-winner districts, as opposed to only 22 percent of seats in the 40 states with only single-winner districts. In 2014, women held 39.2 percent of multi-winner council seats in our 100 largest cities, as compared to just 29.6 percent of single-winner seats.
Gillibrand is a bit of a gender essentialist. “Just literally having 51 percent of women in Congress representing the diversity of our country: You would have different issues raised, different solutions being offered, you’d have less partisan bickering,” she says. “Because our disposition is to help. When we do our legislation, we’re not trying to figure out how can I use this to run against you; we say, ‘How can we pass this bill to help both of our constituents?’ Our economy would be stronger, because we’d be dealing with things like paid leave and equal pay legitimately, as opposed to just using it as a talking point.”
Representative Susan Brooks held a Special Order Honoring 100 Years of Women in Congress - republicans and democrats alike participated (my very own representative Jamie Raskin may have been the only congressman)! Please Tweet your appreciation to Rep Brooks @SusanWBrooks & Rep Raskin @RepRaskin.ChartsBin shared a terrific map of women in parliaments worldwide.