Courageous pacifist and suffragist Jeannette Pickering Rankin (1880-1973) was born on this day in Missoula, Montana.
Inspired by her early hero social reformer Jane Addams and the support of suffragists, Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1916 and the only member to vote against declaring war on Japan in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go," she said.
As a Republican Representative from Montana, she has been called "America's conscience," voting against U.S. participation in both World Wars. "Small use it will be to save democracy for the race," she said, "if we cannot save the race for democracy."
Committed to world peace, Rankin traveled around the world to spread her message. She visited India numerous times and met with Mahatma Gandhi. She re-entered public life in January 1968 when at the age of 87 she led the Jeanette Rankin Brigade of over 5,000 women in a Washington demonstration against what she called "the ruthless slaughter" of the Vietnam War.
"War is evil," she said. "There is always an alternative."
Rankin called upon women to put an end to war. "Ten thousand boys have died in Vietnam. I predict that if 10,000 American women had mind enough they could end the war, if they were committed to the task, even if it meant going to jail. You cannot have wars without the women."
A pioneer in women's suffrage and rights, she told Newsweek magazine in 1966, "We're half the people; we should be half the Congress."
A crisis is only a turning point.