Great Falls Tribune: Federal bill would honor Jeannette Rankin

Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester introduced legislation Monday 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 Rep. Jeannette Rankin – who was elected to the House in 1916 – by renaming in her honor a key science, technology, engineering and mathematics program that provides grants to colleges and universities who encourage women and minorities to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program” would be called 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. 

It 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, officials said. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Women still comprise 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.

Montana officials said it was appropriate to rename the program after her.

“Jeannette Rankin was a true trailblazer who encouraged other women to pursue their dreams,” said Daines a Republican and the only chemical engineer in Congress. 

“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, a Democrat, said. 

Representative Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., introduced companion legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on April 18.

“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.

Born in 1880, Jeannette Rankin represented one of Montana’s two at-large House seats. She was elected on Nov. 7, 1916, almost four years prior to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote.

Rankin, a Republican, voted against the United States entering World War I and World War II.