Listen: Lillian Fadiman Ginette Rankin, Montana, Congress discussed on The United States of Anxiety
"Think it's responsible conclusion is that Ginette rank and was either by sexual or lesbian. Now, Rankin was very private about her personal relationships. So there's still a lot that historians are debating, but she never settled down with a man or a woman. She never had kids. It seems like New York City was where she started to see a future for herself as an independent political woman. And this kind of feminism was a big idea in the early nineteen hundreds. The first feminist movement in the late nineteenth century, and the early twentieth century must have been a just a deliriously wonderful time for her and other. Women who who had ambitions historian Lillian fadiman Ginette Rankin became an adult at a very heady period for women who wanted independence and sauve themselves as as more than the domestic creatures that many women were consigned to during the Victorian era Rankin and her friends were invested in making social reform with women taking the lead. They said, society's problems could only be fixed. If women held elected office and started making policy, and the first step toward taking political power was getting women. The vote after she earned her social work degree Rankine burst onto the suffrage scene and she quickly earned a reputation as one of the best campaigners in the whole country. Here's one part of a speech he gave in nineteen eleven. Men want women in the home and they want them to make it perfect yet how can they make it? So if they have no control of the influences of the home, Rankin campaigned all over the country. And when she had an audience, she made an impact. She wore stylish dresses and she had a striking figure. She was just captivating to watch. One newspaper article described her as having a kind of luminous quality when she spoke, but what really made an impression, we're rankings ideas. It is beautiful and right that our mother should nurse her child through typhoid fever. But it is also beautiful and right that she should have a voice in regulating the milk supply from which the typhoid resulted eventually rank and brought her new campaigning skills back to conservative Montana. And she was careful in her suffrage speeches. She didn't wanna come off as too radical, her friend and fellow. For just Mary O'Neill told her to be strategic all the dope. You can about the influence of women and behalf of the children and appeal to the higher standard of motherhood and true or home life. That's the gush that gets the public, that kind of speech that will do more to make suffrage ists than all the purely intellectual Gulf, that we might give them in a whole hundred years. Rankin might have been dulling down her message, but that didn't mean she was boring. She was in town speaking, and she came out and something like a gold, leopard print outfits. She was quite the dresser. That she just was mesmerizing compelling. Rinkins other strength was being willing to cover a lot of ground on the campaign trail. And that's saying something Montana's the fourth largest state and in nineteen ten. There were about two people per square mile, but by nineteen fourteen all of her road trips and street corners. Speeches paid off, Montana, gave non native American. Women devote native. Americans wouldn't get the vote until they became US citizens ten years later. So this was how Rankin ended up running for congress. Campaigning for suffrage was her gateway. Her launch pad. Montana's knew her. Women could vote for her her brother, Wellington, a lawyer funded and managed her whole campaign and in nineteen sixteen she did it. She won her seat by a landslide, but electing a woman to congress wasn't immediately headline news the morning after the election Jeannette Rankin said she called up the local papers herself and I have Ginette Rankin. And the newspapers at, oh, she lost Rankin gave this interview in nineteen sixty three when she was in her eighties and you can still hear how much she enjoys telling her victory story and. And along with about ten or eleven o'clock, Wellington telephone, but an Helen. I was in Missoula. That I have one. And so when women came into sympathize, we sit not. I said. And I said, but I had one, I really have done rank and said, the Montana papers didn't admit she'd one for another two days. When are they knew from the beginning that I hit one. Now, why did the newspapers say? I have all that time except for wishful thinking. The election was international news. The United States had its first ever congresswoman and after she took office letters to rank in from women, started pouring in having a female Representative created this window into so many women's lives. They wrote to her about factory conditions, problems on their farms about having sick children and the fear of having their sons drafted into war. One woman wrote to rank in with a desperate plea for help in the correspondence is a very poorly written long handwritten letter. From a woman named Jesse naked, who in her letter describes being an abused wife, Mary Murphy is a professor of history and philosophy at Montana state university. When she found this letter, she was stunned naked told rank in about her whole marriage and in nineteen seventeen that was unheard of. She was very happy to marry this man who seemed wonderful. And on her wedding night, he took away her pocketbook because he said she had no need for her own money. He did not swear me till five month at we remarried. I told him, I believed I was in a family way. Oh, how he cursed? It means said he supposed, I would be sickly, and you would have to spend on me and she then just chronicles a progression of verbal abuse of physical abuse of cutting her off from the community. And he knew all I knew of married life was what he told me. So he used me. A rough for six years of married life had to let him fourteen to twenty times a week that could not stand it. I got poor weighing around one hundred pounds, and she figures out how to write to rank in in ask for help. But Murphy says the country's first congresswoman didn't have many answers. You know Rankin what could she have told her to do? I mean, we didn't even have the concept of domestic abuse. I mean, had a right to his wife's body. She did not have any viable economic choices. There was no such thing as a shelter for abused women. And didn't get to be an advocate for women for very long. She was outspoken and radical, but she was also unpopular in one thousand nine hundred seventeen just days in her first term Rankin was one of the few members of congress to vote against World War One and her critics tore her apart. They said that she was week that she couldn't vote like a man, but the real blow came when rank and got on the bad side of the biggest corporation in Montana. She stood up and defy the conduc opera money company more than one hundred sixty men died in a mining disaster in Butte. Montana, the workers went on strike and rank and sided with them, but going up against the Anaconda company was a dangerous move over the course of the early part of the twentieth century, they take control of practically all the newspapers in the state. They control employment, they control the economy. They have a very strong role in politics. Rankin pressed president Wilson to start an investigation into the accident. She also called for the government ownership of metal mines, and the company did not like that. It's the political kiss of death. The Anaconda company pressured the state legislature to gerrymander Rankin out of her seat, lawmakers even had a slogan. Do you want to keep a woman in congress? Rankin lost her bid for reelection after her first term, but twenty years later, she ran again on a pacifist platform and she won in nineteen forty one a day after Pearl Harbor. Rankin was the only member of congress to vote against World War Two. And once again, she was politically sidelined."