Bill to name Rankin post office passes U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed by unanimous voice vote a bill to name Missoula’s main post office building in honor of Jeannette Rankin.

The approval came Wednesday afternoon after it was introduced in March by Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana.

U.S. Senator Steve Daines presented a similar bill on the same day in the Senate. In a press release from Gianforte’s office, Daines hailed the bill’s passage in the House and said he will continue working to advance S. 953 in that Senate.

Gianforte and Daines are Republicans, as was Rankin when she was elected to Congress in 1916 and 1940.

A spokeswoman for Montana’s senior senator, Democrat Jon Tester, said Tester “is supportive of efforts to get the bill passed in the Senate and is hopeful it’ll happen in short order.”

The introductions of the bicameral bills in March occurred during Women’s History Month. In an address earlier in the month, Gianforte called the Missoula-born Rankin “a principled, fearless leader who paved the way for women in public service” and “a fierce proponent for women’s suffrage.”

“She led the successful campaign to secure the right to vote for women in Montana (in 1914) six years before ratification of the 19th Amendment that granted the women the right to vote throughout our country,” Gianforte said.

Rankin was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress in 1917-1918, and was elected again in 1940. In both two-year terms, she was called on to vote on U.S. entrance into world wars. She said no each time.

The post office at 1100 W. Kent Ave. would be among several namesakes of Rankin in Missoula, joining a hall on the University of Montana campus, a park and peace center. Last year Jeannette Rankin elementary schools opened in Missoula and Kalispell.

The 2019 Montana Legislature approved the naming of a five-mile stretch of Interstate 90 through Missoula the Jeannette Rankin Memorial Highway. A dedication is planned for next June 11, the anniversary of Rankin’s birth in Missoula in 1880. She died in 1973 at Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.