Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress

Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress

by Trish Marx, Dan Andreasen

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I've been trying to help women have better lives, using the laws we already have. But what if the laws are wrong, or don't go far enough?"

So was the thinking of Jeannette Rankin before she decided to run for Congress, years before most women even had the right to vote.

Growing up a small-town girl in Montana, Jeannette showed courage and initiative,


I've been trying to help women have better lives, using the laws we already have. But what if the laws are wrong, or don't go far enough?"

So was the thinking of Jeannette Rankin before she decided to run for Congress, years before most women even had the right to vote.

Growing up a small-town girl in Montana, Jeannette showed courage and initiative, helping to run her family's ranch and daring to go to university at a time when most women did not even finish high school. She was bright and well-educated, but it wasn't until a visit to her brother in Boston — where she glimpsed the harsh realities that women and children faced in the slums — that she knew what she wanted to do with her life.

Immediately she got to work, helping in settlement houses and working with orphaned children, but Jeannette wanted to give women the power to better their own lives — so she shifted her focus to suffrage and ran for Congress. On November 9, 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to win a seat in the House of Representatives. While in office, she continued her fight for women's rights and also bravely advocated for peace during World War I. Jeannette Rankin was a true pioneer in women's rights and an undeniable force behind the peace movement in America.

In this historical account, Marx's candid text and Andreasen's finely detailed illustrations work together to capture the strength and spirit of one of America's most inspirational leaders.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
One of the most controversial subjects to occupy politics at the turn of the last century was the question of women receiving the right to vote. Yet even before the law was passed in Congress, one woman was elected to Congress and holds the honor of being the only woman to vote in favor of giving all women in the United States the right to vote. Born in Montana in 1880, Rankin well understood the duties of frontier women and realized that women worked just as hard as men and deserved the same rights as men. She campaigned for many years in several different states urging men to vote for women's suffrage. When women won the right to vote in Montana in 1914, Rankin began to campaign just as hard for a seat in Congress and won the election in 1916. But when war threatened, she could not consciously vote to enter the war and lost the next election. She spent the next twenty years promoting peace and when war threatened again, she returned to Montana and campaigned again for Congress. Winning again, she voted against war a second time and once more lost her seat. Andreasen's simple drawings add an interesting aspect to the text and offer an interesting view of Rankin's life and campaigns. Marx focuses on Rankin's bid for congress and glosses over most of her later life, but provides detailed information about her struggle for election and reelection, as well as the years between campaigns. 2006, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Ages 7 to 12.
—Danielle Williams
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Rankin was born in Montana in 1880 and attended the newly formed University of Montana. After leading a successful campaign for women's suffrage in her home state, she was elected to Congress in 1916. In 1919 she was the only woman who voted for the bill that became the 19th Amendment. A stanch advocate of peace, she voted against America's entry into both World Wars. At times Marx waxes lyrical in admiration for her subject's commitment to peace, but acknowledges that Rankin's antiwar sentiments were controversial. The writing is clear and interesting but sources are not cited and there is no bibliography. The muted colors of Andreasen's sensitive oil paintings and skillful graphite sketches reinforce the peaceful tone of the narrative. Each sentence starts on a new line, which makes the type look ragged and might disrupt the flow of the prose for some readers. Still, the writing and the illustrations make this a good choice for young readers who enjoy biographies. Report writers might prefer Mary Barmeyer O'Brien's Jeannette Rankin: Bright Star in the Big Sky (Falcon, 2001).-Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An engrossing profile of a lifelong peace activist who was also the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Coming from Montana, a land of "Big ideas, big promises, big plans," Rankin first threw herself into working with children and the poor, but then decided that changing inadequate laws would be more effective. Elected in 1916, her congressional career was cut short by her courageous decision to vote against entering the First World War-but that put her on a moral high ground that she never left. She returned to the House just in time to cast a solitary vote against entering the Second World War, and before dying at 92 led a protest against the war in Vietnam too. Though needlessly cast as blank verse, Marx's robust narrative captures a vivid sense of Rankin's strong character-which is also picked up in the sepia-toned pencil portraits of a no-nonsense figure with pinned-up hair and an air of confidence that Andreasen intersperses among more impressionistic watercolor illustrations. Rankin is a standard roster entry in collective biographies of women in politics, but this is the first standalone for young readers in more than ten years-and definitely the most memorable. (Biography. 10-12)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Trish Marx is the author of several award-winning books for children, including Touching the Sky: The Flying Adventures of Wilbur and Orville Wright, co-written with Louise Borden, a winner of the Association of Booksellers for Children Choices Award and a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies; Everglades Forever: Restoring America's Great Wetland, a selection on the 2004 Book Links Favorites List; and Reaching for the Sun: Kids in Cuba, the recipient of the 2003 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award. She lives with her family in New York City.

Dan Andreasen is the illustrator of numerous picture books, including By the Dawn’s Early Light: The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner by Steven Kroll, which was named an ABA Kids’ Pick of the Lists and a Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies; A Quiet Place by Douglas Wood; and Sailor Boy Jig by Margaret Wise Brown. He has also authored several picture books, including With a Little Help from Daddy and A Special Day for Mommy. Dan lives with his family in Medina, Ohio.

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