U.S. CONGRESS — U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester today introduced legislation to honor the 100th anniversary of the first woman elected to Congress.
The 100 Years of Women in Congress Act would pay tribute to former Representative Jeannette Rankin – who was elected to the House in 1916 – by renaming in her honor a key science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program that provides grants to colleges and universities who encourage women and minorities to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields.
“Jeannette Rankin was a true trailblazer who encouraged other women to pursue their dreams,” said Daines, the only chemical engineer in Congress. “As a proud Montanan and the first woman to serve in Congress, she left a lasting mark on our nation’s democratic process and this is a great way to honor by renaming a key STEM program in her honor.”
“Jeannette Rankin was a wrecking ball to the status quo, and she still serves as inspiration to all Montanans who dare to venture where they were unwelcome,” Tester said. “Her influence went far beyond the halls of Congress and it is more than fitting to rename this national STEM initiative after a champion of public education.”
The bill would rename the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program (WAMS)” to the “Jeannette Rankin Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program.” Rankin was a pioneer in STEM, having graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1902.
U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) introduced companion legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on April 18, 2016.
“Rep. Rankin was a true Montanan, embodying the pioneer spirit we know and love. Rankin led the way for women in both STEM and politics,” Zinke stated. “She was the first woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, and that was at a time in our nation when many women didn’t even have the right to vote. This grant program is an important tool for young women of today to continue their education in STEM and possibly break new ground and blaze new trails for the young women of tomorrow. I was proud to get this bill passed in the House and am thrilled to partner with my Senate colleagues to get the job done.”
If renamed, the program would remain a competitive grants program supporting research and extension projects that seek to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Although gains have been made in the STEM fields, women still comprise only 39 percent of chemists and material scientists, 28 percent of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 16 percent of chemical engineers and 12 percent of civil engineers.
Born in 1880, Jeannette Rankin represented one of Montana’s two at-large House seats. She was elected on November 7, 1916, almost four years prior to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote.