Jeannette Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, near Missoula, Montana. Educated in the public schools, she graduated from the University of Montana in 1902 and studied at the School of Philanthropy in New York City. She undertook social work in Seattle, Washington, in 1909 and in subsequent years worked for woman suffrage in Washington, California and Montana. She traveled to New Zealand in 1915 and gained first-hand knowledge of social conditions by working as a seamstress.
In 1916, Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican Senate nomination in 1918, engaged in social work for the next three decades, and was re-elected to the House in 1940. She did not seek re-election in 1942. In her last 30 years she was a rancher, a lecturer, and a lobbyist for peace and women's rights.
Rankin supported the cause of peace throughout her life. She voted against America's entry into World Wars I and II, and she was the only member of Congress to oppose the declaration of war on Japan. She died in Carmel, California, on May 18, 1973.