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MC 246; M-38

Rankin, Jeannette, 1880-1973. Papers of Jeannette Rankin, 1879-1976 (inclusive), 1916-1973 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

These papers were processed under National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Number RC 24669-76-987.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 246; M-38
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Jeannette Rankin, 1880-1973
Title: Papers of Jeannette Rankin, 1879-1976 (inclusive), 1916-1973 (bulk)
Date(s): 1879-1976
Date(s): 1916-1973
Quantity: 5.21 linear feet (12+1/2 file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 1 supersize folder, 5 reels phonotapes, 1 reel motion picture film)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, newsclippings, etc., of Jeannette Rankin, pacifist, feminist and first woman elected to Congress.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 75-79, 75-81, 75-338, 76-121, 77-M148, 79-M94
The papers of Jeannette Rankin were deposited with the Schlesinger Library in 1975 and 1977 by Dorothy McKinnon Brown, Rankin's niece.

Processing Information:

Processed: September 1977
By: Linda J. Henry

Conditions Governing Access:

Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-38.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Jeannette Rankin is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


The papers of Jeannette Rankin have been microfilmed for preservation purposes. The originals are closed to researchers. A positive film copy of all of the eleven reels is available for researcher use.
For a description of the contents of the collection, see the Inventory (pages 1-9). The following list indicates the folder and volume numbers and the number of the reel on which they appear.
Please refer to this content and reel information as you use the Inventory.
  • Folders 1-17: M-38, Reel 1
  • Folders 18-31: M-38, Reel 2
  • Folders 32-65: M-38, Reel 3
  • Folders 66-71; about 6000 3x5 cards*: M-38, Reel 4
  • Folders 72-93: M-38, Reel 5
  • Folders 94-114: M-38, Reel 6
  • Folders 115-152: M-38, Reel 7
  • Folders 153-170: M-38, Reel 8
  • Folders 171-184: M-38, Reel 9
  • Folders 185-202: M-38, Reel 10
  • Folders 203-205; items from oversize folders, newsclippings and scrapbooks: M-38, Reel 11
  • * Available on microfilm ONLY, originals have been discarded.

    Preferred Citation:

    Jeannette Rankin Papers, 1879-1976; item description, dates. MC 246, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

    Related Material:

    Three other small collections in the Schlesinger Library are papers by or about Jeannette Rankin: the Hannah Josephson Papers (A/J83), the Flora Belle Surles Papers (MC 268) and the Harriet Yarrow Papers (A/Y29). The best source for Rankin in another library, at this time, is the National Council for the Prevention of War papers in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.


    Board, John C. "The Lady From Montana: Jeannette Rankin." M.A. Thesis, University of Wyoming, 1964.
    Brown, Mackey. "Montana's First Woman Politician--A Recollection of Jeannette Rankin Campaigning." Montana Business Quarterly, IX, Number 4 (Autumn 1971), pages 23-26.
    Harris, Ted Carlton. "Jeannette Rankin: Suffragist, First Woman Elected to Congress, and Pacifist." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1972.
    Josephson, Hannah. Jeannette Rankin, First Lady in Congress: A Biography. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974.
    Schaffer, Ronald. "Jeannette Rankin, Progressive-Isolationist." Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1959.
    Suffragists Oral History Project. "Jeannette Rankin: Activist for World Peace, Women's Rights, and Democratic Government." Bancroft Library, Regional Oral History Office, 1974.
    Winestine, Belle Fligelman. "Mother Was Shocked." Montana: the Magazine of Western History, XXIV, Number 3 (1974), pages 70-79.
    Wilson, Joan Hoff. "'Peace is a Woman's Job....' Jeannette Rankin's Foreign Policy." For a forthcoming publication.


    Jeannette Rankin, pacifist and feminist, was born near Missoula, Montana, on June 11, 1880, the daughter of John Rankin and Olive (Pickering) Rankin. She graduated from the University of Montana (1902) and attended the School of Philanthropy (now the Columbia University School of Social Work) in New York City (1908-1909). After working briefly as a social worker in Seattle, JR campaigned for women's suffrage in Washington, California, Montana and other states from 1910 to 1915.
    The first woman elected to Congress (1916), she voted against United States entry into World War I and worked for women's rights as well as peace legislation. From 1919 to 1940 Rankin lobbied Congress and lectured for various peace and other humanitarian causes: in the 1920's she was employed by the National Consumers' League and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and founded the Georgia Peace Society; in the 1930's she worked mainly for the National Council for the Prevention of War.
    Re-elected to Congress in 1940, she was the only legislator to vote against United States entry into World War II. From 1945 through the early 1970's JR traveled extensively, especially to India. In the late 1960's and early 1970's she was active in both peace and feminist causes, opposing the war in Vietnam and working for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also strongly supported the direct election of Presidents and multiple-member Congressional districts. She died in Carmel, California, on May 18, 1973.


    The collection is arranged in four series:


    This collection provides information for only some portions of Jeannette Rankin's life. The best-documented period is her second term in Congress: five boxes of correspondence about her World War II vote, one box of other Congressional correspondence, and one cubic foot of 3x5 cards (apparently a list of Rankin correspondence). There is approximately one box each about her first term in Congress and her activities in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Over half the entire collection is newsclippings; almost all are about Rankin, although nine are articles by her. The cards and newsclippings are available only on microfilm. Five tapes (mostly interviews of JR in the 1970's), one motion picture film of her (c. 1970) and several photographs of her (1902?-1973) are also included here.
    Two boxes of family papers are mostly letter to Rankin, although three folders are letters by her to other family members. Most of the letters are from Rankin's sisters, Mary (Rankin) Bragg and Grace (Rankin) Kinney, with three folders from her sister, Edna (Rankin) McKinnon, the birth-control advocate. Family letters are arranged by author in Series I.
    There is very little personal information about Rankin. Although there are some post-1945 diaries (folder 202), the entries are very brief. There are numerous personal letters to Rankin from friends; these are filed chronologically in Series II. Almost no copies of Rankin's personal letters are here.
    There are no papers by or about Rankin before her first term in Congress, with the exception of one folder on her suffrage activities. (The nineteenth century items are her father's, and photographs). Although the focus of these papers is on her two terms in Congress and the late 1960's and early 1970's, not all of her Congressional papers are here. Since historians had, at one time, access to documentation about Rankin's early life and other aspects of her career not covered by these papers, such papers existed in the recent past. They are not part of this collection and have apparently been lost or are in private hands. (See Joan Hoff Wilson, "'Peace is a Woman's Job...' Jeannette Rankin's Foreign Policy," pages 1-3, paper in the Library (324.309 R21w) for a forthcoming publication). The list of Rankin's articles and speeches (pages 10-13) includes only those in this collection.
    Series I: some family letters are not to Rankin but to other family members; letters are arranged by author. Letters from the families of Rankin's sisters are filed just after the letters from the sisters.
    Series II: letters are arranged chronologically, except that Rankin replies are filed immediately after the incoming letter; the folder dates therefore refer to incoming letters. There are some Rankin replies to which there are no incoming letters.
    Folders 66-71; about 6000 3x5 cards, are available on microfilm only, the originals have been discarded.


    Available only on microfilm, Reel 11


    Speeches available only on tape:


    This index lists selected writers and recipients of letters. Information about these individuals is not indexed; nor are subjects. The numbers are folder numbers.

    Container List

    Additional Index Terms

    Child labor
    Preferential ballot
    Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
    Women's rights
    World War, 1914-1918--Protest movements
    World War, 1939-1945--Protest movements
    World War, 1939-1945--Public opinion
    Addams, Jane, 1860-1935
    Anthony, Katharine Susan, 1877-1965
    Jeannette Rankin Brigade
    Josephson, Hannah
    Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
    Knowles, Gladys, 1892-1985
    McKinnon, Edna Bertha Rankin, 1893-1978
    National Council for Prevention of War (U.S.)
    Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
    O'Neill, Mary
    Rankin family
    Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
    Surles, Flora Belle, 1887-1971?
    United States. Congress. House
    Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
    Yarrow, Harriet.