This Day in History

Dec. 8, 1941: Jeannette Rankin Voted Against WWII

Time Periods: 1920
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements, Women's History
Jeanette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin. By Robert Shetterly of Americans Who Tell the Truth.

On Dec. 8, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Montana Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan. She had also voted against WWI.

As described at,

The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor was devastating, and zeal for revenge was at a fever pitch.  . . . Rankin, however, believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack because he wanted to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany; she was determined not to cooperate with the president’s plan. After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House, a roll call vote began. When her turn came, Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

She also stated,

There can be no compromise with war. [I]t cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense, for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.

After leaving office, she continued to campaign for peace, including protesting the Vietnam War.

The portrait of Rankin by Robert Shetterly from Americans Who Tell the Truth is available as a poster.

Rankin is included in a lesson called “Unsung Heroes” with an essay by Howard Zinn and a lesson by Bill Bigelow from Rethinking Schools. Find more related teaching resources below.