Jeannette Rankin papers, 1916-1919  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Rankin, Jeannette, 1880-1973
Jeannette Rankin papers
1916-1919 (bulk)
5.5 linear feet of shelf space
Collection Number
MC 147 (collection)
Jeannette Rankin, 1880-1973, was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. Rankin was a pacifist, suffragist, prohibitionist, and social activist. As congresswoman she voted against declaration of war in 1917 and again in 1941. The collection (1916-1919; 1941) consists primarily of correspondence from her Montana constituents and subject files on issues important to her.
Montana Historical Society, Research Center Archives
Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives
225 North Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT
Telephone: 406-444-2681
Fax: 406-444-5297
Access Restrictions

Collection open for research.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Jeannette Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, to John and Olive Pickering Rankin on the family's Grant Creek Ranch near Missoula, Montana. Jeannette was raised with her younger brother and five sisters in town. Rankin graduated from Montana State University in Missoula in 1902 and from the New York School of Philanthropy in 1903. In 1910 she began work for the Children's Home Society of Spokane, Washington, where she was given the responsibility of finding homes for the wards of the institution. That same year she enrolled in the University of Washington. It was there she first became involved in the women's suffrage movement. When she learned that the Montana legislature might place a women's suffrage referendum before the voters, she travelled to Helena and became the first women to speak before the state's Legislative Assembly. She left Montana for New York City in 1911 to continue her work for suffrage. In 1913 she was made field secretary for the National American Woman Suffrage Association in North Dakota. Her efforts there were successful and women won the franchise. The suffrage movement took her to Montana where she directed the suffrage activity in the Butte area. In 1914 Montana became the tenth state to give women the vote.

On July 11, 1916, Jeannette Rankin announced her candidacy on the Republican ticket for the U.S. House of Representatives. She was one of eight candidates for Montana's one seat. Her campaign was managed by her younger brother Wellington, a lawyer and editor-manager of the Montana Progressive. Belle Fligelman of Helena, organized and directed the electioneering. Rankin soundly defeated her Republican opponents in the primary, and, though the general election proved to be much closer, Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

The 65th Congress convened early in 1917 as a result of the war issue. On April 6, when President Wilson's war resolution reached the House, Congresswoman Rankin voted with 55 other members of the House against the war. She was attacked in both the Montana and national press for her stand, although she claimed that her vote reflected the wishes of her constituents. Rankin did vote, however, for the declaration of war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in December 1917.

During her first term in Congress, Rankin worked for pensions for veterans and their dependents, salary increases for federal employees, aid for economically depressed and drought-stricken Montana farmers, and national prohibition. She opposed the postal zone system for second class mail as a measure which would result in further isolation for many Westerners who relied upon magazines for news. Rankin also introduced a resolution for American recognition of Irish independence. Her most tangible achievement was in correcting the violations of the eight-hour day law for federal employees by the Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

During the June 1917 miners' strike in Butte, the Metal Mine Workers Union turned to Congresswoman Rankin for support. She had little success, however, in prompting action from Secretary of Labor Wilson, and she introduced a House Joint Resolution authorizing, "the President to take over and operate metaliferous mines in certain cases." The resolution failed and the strike was resolved secretly.

On July 16, 1918, Jeannette Rankin announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, but was defeated in the Republican primary by Oscar Lanstrum. In September she announced her candidacy on the Nationalist Party ticket, but was defeated in the general election.

Following the election Miss Rankin moved to Georgia, where she bought a small farm. She remained active in the peace movement of the 1920s and 1930s, moving from one peace organization to another, although she centered her efforts in the Georgia Peace Society, which she founded, and the National Council for Prevention of War.

Jeannette Rankin retained her legal residence in Montana, although she continued to live in Georgia. In June 1940 she announced her candidacy for a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana, and defeated her opponent Jerry J. O'Connell. During the early months of her term she worked to defeat President Roosevelt's Lend-Lease and conscription legislation. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt called a special session of the 77th Congress for December 8, 1941. Congresswoman Rankin cast the single "no" vote.

Miss Rankin actively continued her work in pacifism until her death on May 18, 1973.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Papers. 1917-1963. 5.7 linear feet. The Jeannette Rankin Papers are arranged by subject files, consisting primarily of correspondence, both from her Montana constituents and out of state parties. While much of the outgoing correspondence is comprised of brief form letters, the incoming correspondence casts light on contemporary state, national, and international sentiment on a wide variety of issues. In addition there is a large body of correspondence which is the consequence of any congressman's office routine: appointments to military academies, invitations, requests for government brochures, etc. Unfortunately, Jeannette Rankin's personal correspondence is not extensive, nor are there many letters which might reflect her political strategies for the 1918 election.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of the Montana Historical Society. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all materials in the collection. In some cases permission for use may require additional authorization from the copyright owners. For more information contact an archivist.

Preferred Citation

Item description and date. Collection Title. Collection Number. Box and Folder numbers. Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives, Helena, Montana.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection

Subject Files Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 1
Appointment with President Woodrow Wilson
1 / 2
Asiatic Exclusion Act
1 / 3-5
Baer Seed Bills (1,2 and 3)
1 / 6
Birth Congratulations (sampled)
1 / 7
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
1 / 8-14
Butte Mine Conditions and Strike (1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7)
1 / 15-16
Campaign (House of Representatives, 1916) (1 and 2)
1 / 17-18
Campaign (Senate, 1918) (1and 2)
1916-1918, undated
2 / 1
Campaign (Senate, 1918) (3)
1916-1918, undated
2 / 2-7
"Circular 1" (response to circular letter) (1-6) regarding women’s reactions to World War 1
2 / 8-9
"Citizenship Legislation" (re American women married to aliens) (1 and 2)
2 / 10
Eleanor Coit
2 / 11
Congratulations (1)
3 / 1-2
Congratulations (2 and 3)
3 / 3-7
Congratulations (Election, 1916) (1-5)
3 / 8-10
Congratulations (World War I, "No" vote, from out of state supporters) A-F, (1-3) Restriction (contact archivist)
3 / 11-14
Conscription (1-4) (regarding Selective Service and draft)
4 / 1-2
Conscription (5-6) (regarding Selective Service and draft)
4 / 3
Dependent Relative Bill (HR 5370)
4 / 4
Equity Petition Correspondence (sampled)
1917, February 12-13
4 / 5
Exemptions from military service
4 / 6-8
"Federal Employees" (regarding salary increases) (1-3)
4 / 9
"Food" (regarding wheat substitutes and U.S. Food Administration)
4 / 10-11
Food Survey Bill (1-2)
4 / 12
Form letters and circulars
4 / 13
"Helen Grey" (Re: White Homesteads on Indian Reservation)
4 / 14-17
Invitations (1-4)
5 / 1-2
Legislation (miscellaneous) (1,2)
1917, 1918
5 / 3
Letters of introduction
5 / 4
Madden Bill (regarding Postoffice addresses)
5 / 5
Military allowances and releases
5 / 6
Minimum price for wheat and shipping rates on grain
5 / 7
Missing persons inquiries
5 / 8
New York Evening Post
5 / 9
"Non-Partisan League"
5 / 10
Office decoration
5 / 11
Pension claims
5 / 12
Pension legislation
5 / 13-14
Personal correspondents and topics
5 / 15-16
"P.O. Salaries" (regarding salary increase for postal workers) (1,2)
1917-1918, undated
6 / 1
"P.O. Salaries" (regarding salary increases for postal workers) (3)
1917-1918, undated
6 / 2-9
"P.O. Salaries" (regarding postal zone clause of War Revenue Bill) (1-8)
6 / 10-13
Prohibition (1-4)
7 / 1-2
Prohibition (5,6)
7 / 3
"Red Cross Cotton"
7 / 4
"Redpath" (regarding Redpath Lyceum Bureau speaking engagements)
7 / 5
Referrals to other legislators
7 / 6-9
Requests for appointments (#1 - #4)
7 / 10-13
Requests for appointments to military academies (1-4)
8 / 1-3
Requests for appointments to military academies (5-7)
8 / 4-5
Requests for Farmers' Bulletins (1,2)
8 / 6-10
Requests for government documents (1-5)
8 / 11
Requests for general information
8 / 12
Requests for seed (1)
9 / 1-2
Requests for seed (2,3)
9 / 3
Requests for speech on government control of mines
9 / 4-5
Resolutions (1,2) Topics
9 / 6-7
Speaking engagements (1,2)
9 / 8-10
Speaking engagements (Lee Keedick, manager) (1-3)
9 / 11-14
"Suffrage" (1-4)
10 / 1-2
War effort and hardships (1,2)
10 / 3
"War Legislation" (regarding military personnel, civilians, etc.)
10 / 4-10
War resolutions (1-7)
11 / 1-2
War Revenue Bills (general) (1,2)
11 / 3
War Revenue Bills (regarding auto tax)
11 / 4
War Revenue Bill (regarding drug and alcohol tax)
11 / 5
War Revenue Bill (regarding musical instruments tax)
11 / 6
War Revenue Bill (regarding stamp tax on checks)
11 / 7-8
War Revenue Bill (miscellaneous)
11 / 9
"Wheat Sub" (Regarding wheat flour substitutes)

Maps and Photographs Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
11 / 10
List of maps and photographs transferred to the Library and Photo Archives

Miscellaneous Correspondence Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
11 / 11
Chronological (correspondents include M.E. Skinner; Harry A. Walker; Sam E. Vertreez; E. Shifflet; The Wisconsin Agriculturist; Lillian Welsh; May Stanley)
1916 August-December
11 / 12
Chronological (correspondents include Theodore Vermeire; Winifred Wolcott; Henry L. Stimson; Eva C. Smith; A.P. Shane; James T. Sheridan; Mary M. Wiley; Harriet Bishop Waters; Robert Sibley; R.J. Stamps; Margaret Van Slate; W.J. Sullivan; Daniel B. Strong; Social Hygiene; Meta Wellers; Marie Spink; Paul H. Weyranch; The Frank A. Munsey Company; Elizabeth Van Winkle; Morde Smith; Margaret M. Sterling; Dudley D. Sicher; Fannie Wood; Clara Savage; Isaac R. Sherwood; Ellen Walker; Anna F. Stewart; Pattie B. Stoute; A.N. Marquis and Company; Stephen Rimington Whitney; Edna Smith; Henry Wilbert; National Women's Trade Union League of America; Susan Sherry; Marion Whiting; Percy Stone; Emil Vaterlaus; Ruth Springer; W.H. Sears; A.E. McLeish)
1917 January-May
11 / 13
Chronological (correspondents include New Willard Hotel; George Welby Van Pelt; George H. Sandison; Agnes K. Wright; Anna Garlin Spencer; H.H. Snell; Red Fox Skiuhusha; June Westwood; George T. Winchester; The Woman's Evening Clinic; Heard Stockslager; F.J. Wynne; Dave Swander; W.H. Stayton; P.A. Speer; Successful Farming; Emily L. Veitch; W.M. Shoemaker; S.A. Wilkins; Fred Snyder; F.F. Hendrickson; Charles B. Smith; Brooke G. White Jr., Martha Summerfield Shuey; James C. Waters Jr., Mary Van Kleeck; Dwight E. Watkins; D.H. Wright)
1917 June-July
11 / 14
Chronological (correspondents include Fredrick Stewart; Katharine R. Shay; J.V. White; V.C. Vaiden; J.A. Van Fleet; The Villager; William Mac Williams; D.S.Scott; E.A. Wallace; V. Vlasto; B.K. Wood; Louise Maxwell Williamson; William I. Sirarch; J.A. Young; Edward B. Watson; Jessie E. Shaw; Walton Advertising; H.L. Simms; Alice Page Nelson Waller; J.J. Shoemaker; Charles E. Saltzman; Agnes Shand; William L. Straus Jr., Philip G. Straus; Clarence R. Wagoner; Frank P. Woods; E.N. Springer; W.R. Sawyer; Oscar Warnock)
1917 August-September
11 / 15
Chronological (correspondents include Nelson W. Spaulding; E.D. Shelton; M.A. Young; Lewis Smith Studio; Frederick Willard; J. Schmitt; L.M. Sniff; Guy Shoemaker; J.S. Snoddy; Esther Zarnele; Addie Wright; Women's Club; Harold Whittemore; Edward A. Storvick; H.C. Schilling; M.M. Yates; Eva M. Vincent; Clark Sloan; Elizabeth Southwick; Bella Neumann-Zilberman; Ada P. Spalding; George S. Sparks; Charles Van Bergen; O.H.P. Shelley; Albert Shaw; R.F. Weakley; E. Simmons; Susan Hunter Walker; Herbert H. Smith; Louise Wilson Schwarz; Minerva V. Scott)
1917 October-December
12 / 1
Chronological (correspondents include Western Union; Cortez Wright; Hattie Stein; Red Fox James; Carson W. White; J.C. White; E.A. Tennis; Lillian C. Thompson; Richard W. Winans; Ora Troutman; Mrs. Thomas Vincent; Mich Whraton; T.W. Tresidder; H.J. Titus; Minnich Wackford; Maggie Thompson; W.D. Wolfe; Alice Ward)
1918 January-February
12 / 2
Chronological (correspondents include Henry H. Ward; Peter E. Stogoff; M.H. Wilcoxon; Caleb W. VanHamm; Karl F. Blutharsch; Georgia Wright; H.W. Smith; F.J. Werling; David Weaver; Raymond Wilcox; Mary Ogden White; James Boland)
1918 March-April
12 / 3
Chronological (correspondents include James Boland; Talbot; William H. Taylor; John Wuchter; John Patrick Marmion; Martin Williams; Rose Waple; peal Lillian Truman; Arthur T. Vance; Frances Wiman; Edna A. Zimman; Walter E. Weyl; Arthur Whitney; Mrs. Falconer; Dr. Voyslav M. Yovanovitch; Marie Wimmel; Elliott Woods; P.E. Tierney; Wilbur F. Wakeman; M.W. Thayer; M.J. Walsh; Victor A. Wakhontoff; Samuel J. Wright; C.V. Vickrey; George M. Veile; Michael Lambrecht; A.M. Todd; Merle Thorpe)
1918 May-November
12 / 4
Correspondence (including letter from Eleanor Roosevelt Regarding Peace in Europe, letters from constituents, her responses to some constituents including the Silver Bow County Surplus Worker's Union, Tom Caverly, Clarence Blewett, Disabled American Veterans of the World War Department of Montana, Knights of Pythius Yellowstone Lodge, John E. Barrows (re death of brother Robert Barrows, Montana Legionaire, Jerry O'Connell (typescript of telegram, Fred Uhde, )
1919, 1933, 1940-1942
12 / 5-7
Correspondences (anonymous)
1917-1918, undated
12 / 8
Correspondences (anonymous)

Miscellany Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
12 / 10

Clippings Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
12 / 11-12
Miscellaneous Clippings
1917-1918, 1963, undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Draft
  • Droughts
  • Farmers
  • Pacifism
  • Prohibition
  • Women and war
  • Women in politics
  • Women--Suffrage
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • World War, 1914-1918--PUBLIC OPINION
  • Personal Names :
  • Rankin, Jeannette, 1880-1973 (creator)
  • Geographical Names :
  • Butte (Mont.)
  • Washington (D.C.)