by Gretchen Woelfle
102 pages

Calkins Creek

May 2007

If you know one thing about Jeannette Rankin beyond the fact that she was the first woman elected to Congress, it’s probably that she was the only member of Congress to vote against the U.S.’s entry into both world wars. The biggest news to me, upon reading Gretchen Woelfle‘s lively new biography, was that Montana’s Rankin was in fact the first woman elected to a democratic lawmaking body anywhere in the world.

Or maybe it was that her two big votes against war occurred in the only two terms she served, more than two decades apart.

Or maybe it was that Rankin still had another three decades to go after that before she’d be done actively opposing war. (You’ll dig the photo of a 90-ish Rankin standing next to an 11-piece drum kit at a 1970 anti-Vietnam rally.)

I could go on.

Like the recent biography of Jane Addams, Rankin’s mentor and sister suffragette, this one offers a captivating portrait of a highly principled American putting those principles to good use for a good long time.