Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer

Gretchen Woelfle
For ages 12 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2007   ISBN: 978-1590784372

Jeannette was born in Montana, the daughter of pioneer parents who managed a ranch and who owned a lumber mill. Jeanette was able to turn her hand to almost anything that needed to be done. She cooked, cleaned, and made clothes and if a horse needed to have an injury sewn up, she did that too. She was a clever and willful girl who liked to have her own way and she was raised to believe that there was very little that a woman could not do. Her father also taught her to believe that violence was not the answer. He saw the way the Native Americans had been treated and thought it was shameful. As far as he was concerned war was wrong and it was a sentiment his daughter came to share.

After going to college Jeannette was not sure what she wanted to do with her life. She knew that she wanted to make a difference and for a while she worked as a social worker, but she found that she could not do much because society seemed to be so opposed to helping those in need so she shifted her focus to the political arena. She felt that women needed to get the vote first and then they could help women and children in need more effectively.

As a speaker and advocate for women?s suffrage Jeannette was a powerhouse of energy and she proved to be very successful. So successful in fact that she ended up becoming the first woman to become a congressperson. It was 1917 and President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war to enter World War I. As a pacifist Jeannette could not vote in favor of the war and her nay vote made her very unpopular with the public. She stood by her decision even though that it meant that her political career was over for the time being. In 1941 Jeanette was congresswoman for Montana once again and when President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan Jeannette once again refused to give an aye vote. Her conscience would not allow it. The public reaction to her refusal to support the war was even more violent that it had been in 1917 but Jeannette stood by her anti-war beliefs and she never regretted her decision.

This is an excellent account of the life and work of one of America?s greatest campaigners for women?s suffrage and social justice for women, children, and workers. She was also a determined pacifist who never swerved from her values no matter what people said to her and how much she was threatened and criticized. Full of quotes, period photographs, informational boxes, and other interesting additional material, this book provides readers with a well rounded portrait of a woman who was truly born before her time.