First Woman Elected to the U.S. Congress (in 1917)

Jeannette Rankin

CSSW connection: Jeannette Rankin earned a degree in biology at the University of Montana before heading east to attend the New York School of Philanthropy, the precursor to the Columbia School of Social Work. She went back west to work briefly as a social worker before finding her calling as a political activist and ultimately as a politician.

Path to political involvement: Jeannette Rankin rose to national prominence because of her organizing efforts around helping women gain the vote. She ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives from Montana in 1917, and in so doing became the very first woman to be elected to Congress (she was also one of the few suffragists to be elected). As a congresswoman, she continued her fight for the passage of the 19th Amendment, which took place three years later.


Rankin declared on August 29, 1916, after winning her congressional seat:

I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.

Related links:

CSSW Presses to Get Out the Vote

Rankin, Jeannette (1880–1973)