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100 Years Ago, The First Woman Was Elected To The U.S. House

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And this past Wednesday in her concession speech, Hillary Clinton reflected on the moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

(APPLAUSE)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Of course, a hundred years ago this week, a glass ceiling was shattered, this one on Capitol Hill. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first female lawmaker in Congress.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Her biographer, Jean Luckowski, says Rankin was already a sensation when she arrived in Washington in 1917.

JEAN LUCKOWSKI: People wrote her letters. They wrote poems. They wrote songs about her. When she was elected, it was a very big deal.

GREENE: And on Rankin's very first day on the job, Congress was voting on whether to enter World War I. Rankin voted against because she was a lifelong pacifist.

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JEANNETTE RANKIN: Because of its futility, its stupidity and its ultimate destruction of humanity.

GREENE: That vote against World War I in 1917 cost Rankin her seat. She returned to Congress in 1940, just in time to vote against entering the Second World War.

MONTAGNE: After leaving Congress, Jeannette Rankin continued advocating for peace. And before she died in 1973, she reflected on her life, saying, if I had my life to live over, I would do it all again, but this time I would be nastier. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.