Curator's Corner Blog

Monthly Archives: September 2015

J Rankin Dissenting Vote 1941

Jeannette Rankin

We ought to know that you cannot settle a dispute by violence.”

Miss Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin was born in Missoula, Montana 11 June, 1880.  She served as the first woman in the House of Representatives in the 65th session of Congress from 1917 – 1919. She said that she was the first woman to be elected, but she would not be last.  Women had had the right to vote in the state of Montana since 1914, but a constitutional amendment giving all women the right to vote was not ratified until 18 August, 1920.  She was welcomed by her fellow congressmen by cheers and had to bow in acceptance twice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During her first term in congress, she, along with forty nine of her fellow congressman, voted “No” against the United States involvement in World War I. Commenting on her vote, she said, “As a woman I cannot go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”

In January 1918, she opened the House Floor debate on a constitutional amendment on woman’s suffrage, the very first of such debates.  Many representatives who shared her vote defended her, including Fiorello La Guardia, Representative from New York.  In an effort to distance themselves from Miss Rankin’s views, the National American Woman Suffrage Association wrote, “Miss Rankin was not voting for the suffragists of the nation – she represented Montana.”

As was the pattern of her life, Miss Rankin spoke for miner’s rights, social welfare programs, and peace.

J Rankin Dissenting Vote 1941

Miss Rankin was narrowly defeated in the following election, but when war presented itself on the world stage in 1939, she submitted her bid for re-election and won.  Her purpose in this term was to speak against the United States in World War II.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she immediately returned to Washington D.C. to cast her vote against war.  She was not given the floor to speak against President Roosevelt’s request to fight back.  She was also encouraged to abstain from the vote.  But, when the roll was called, she declared, “No.”  This time, she stood alone, the resolution passed 388-1.  The response was immediate.  She was driven from the House of Representatives amidst hisses and boos, and had to run from the building.  Finding shelter in a phone booth, she waited until the police arrived to escort her back to her office.

Miss Rankin was ignored for the remainder of her term.

15 Jan 1968, Washington, DC, USA --- A group of women belonging to the Jeanette Rankin Brigade march in protest of the Vietnam War. Jeanette Rankin, the first female congress member, stands holding the banner at center (wearing eyeglasses). --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

15 Jan 1968, Washington, DC, USA — A group of women belonging to the Jeanette Rankin Brigade march in protest of the Vietnam War. Jeanette Rankin, the first female congress member, stands holding the banner at center (wearing eyeglasses). — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Jeannette Rankin worked as a seamstress and a teacher after her service in government.  She also stayed active in politics.  She was impressed with Mahatma Gandhi’s adherence to nonviolent protests and had made several trips to India even though she lived on a minimal income.

When war, again, raged at the United States door, she formed the Jeannette Rankin Brigade.  In 1968, she and 5000 protested marched in Washington D.C. against the war in Vietnam.

At age 92, she was considering running for Congress again to put an end to the conflict, but she passed away 18 May 1973 in Carmel, California.

Jeannette Rankin’s life was one of consistency.  She said, “What one decides to do in a crisis depends on one’s philosophy of life, and that philosophy cannot be changed by an incident.”

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SONY DSC

Every state is allowed two statues to be placed in Washington D.C. to memorialize what is valued most by each state.  Montana chose Charles Russell and, appropriately, Jeannette Rankin, who embodied the spirit of Montana in her perseverance in standing, even alone, for her convictions.

All images are courtesy of the following websites:

Dissenting Vote, barrybradford.com

Rankin Statue, aoc.gov

Rankin Brigade, corbisimages.com

Miss Jeannette Rankin, moralheroes.org

church

100th Anniversary First Presbyterian Church of Missoula

In 1909, Missoula was a town to be talked about. Its second railroad, the Milwaukee, had finally reached town, an electric streetcar system ran the streets, and a new modern Higgins Avenue bridge had been recently completed.
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Reverend Dr. John Maclean was also just arriving to town, delivering his first sermons at the First Presbyterian Church of Missoula. At that time, church buildings were not just used for worship, but were social centers for town as well. On a daily basis the Brotherhood Club, Boy Scouts and a variety of women’s groups were using the small church. By 1910, Maclean and local architect and congregation member, A.J. Gibson, began plans for a larger church.

In 1912, lots were purchased on the south side of Missoula, at South Fifth and Myrtle street, and the current church was finished three years later. Though Gibson had retired in 1913, he came out of retirement to design the large scale Gothic Revival-style brick church as his last official project. The building includes an enormous square bell tower, steep central gable, and pointed-arch windows. Its large size and nod to European style of architecture makes it the showcase of the South Side.

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John Maclean was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church from 1909 to 1925. His sons, Norman and Pual, grew up in Missoula and learned to fly fish in the surrounding rivers. It was their adventures in Missoula that sparked Norman to write “A River Runs Through It.”

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On September 13th, 2015 the First Presbyterian Church will be celebrating its 100th year with a variety of events. Check out their website for more information: http://fpcmissoula.org/site/homepage.html.