She voted “No.” The first and only female in the House of Representatives, Jeannette Rankin, voted “no” when the United States planned to enter World War I in 1917. She believed that peace was the only option. She told the House, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war” (Graveline). She was a pacifist, a strong political leader, and a social rights activist. Unfortunately, Rankin was a woman and in 1917 a woman’s voice was less important than a man’s. She struggled to have the issues that were important to her heard. She struggled to make people understand the importance of the suffragette movement that she was heavily involved in. And even at a time of war, she still did not get the respect that a man would have gotten for her views on war and peace. Rankin fought for peace in the United States, she fought to abolish violence as the Great War tore up the earth and as she stood as the first and only female voice in the United States House.
Negative peace is the “absence of violence” (Negative versus Positive Peace). When a war is finished or a ceasefire has taken place negative peace follows. It does not mean there is no unrest or confusion, but that violence has been stopped and conflict is being resolved. Jeannette Rankin was a negative peacemaker. She fought to keep the United States out of war and used her position as the leader of the Committee on Women’s Suffrage, to empower women and teach them the importance of their vote to bring about peace (“Jeannette Rankin”) . The Committee on Women’s Suffrage was established in 1882 to consider amending the United States Constitution to give women the right to vote (“Petition for Women’s Suffrage Committee”). Rankin combined her passion for pacifism and women’s rights to vote by urging women to want to vote so that they, and not just men, could be a part of the decisions of war. Not only did this work to instill in women a right to have some power over their own lives and in their own government; but it also gave them the belief that they could keep their husbands and sons home rather than never seeing them come home (“Women’s Suffrage and WWI”).
The idea of fighting for one’s country and for the aid of an ally was, and is, a noble goal and therefore, created support and encouragement for the Great War by a majority of the United States. Jeannette Rankin however, believed that war, in any form, was catastrophic and unnecessary. When Rankin voted “no” she felt that she needed to explain her vote even though “such explanations [were] left to members of the Senate” (“Seek to Explain Miss Rankin’s ‘No’”). She felt that as a woman she had to explain that she fully supported her country and saw herself as a great patriot. She needed to prove to the men of the House that as a strong female and a fighter for women’s rights, she still did not agree with war and violence. The day after Rankin voted “no,” The New York Times published an article addressing the idea that the public believed that, “Miss Rankin’s vote [was] regarded not as that of a pacifist, but rather as one dictated by the inherent abhorrence of women for war” (“Seek to Explain Miss Rankin’s ‘No’”).
Rankin tried to build peace from the top down; from the ‘Big Man’ down to the ‘Little Guy’; from government down to the people. She was elected into the House of Representatives and used her voice as best she could to declare her position against war and violence. She was the only woman able to vote to pass the nineteenth amendment for women’s right to vote, and she worked hard her entire life to bring peace to the United States whether they really wanted it or not
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