After being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916, Jeannette Rankin told "The Suffragist" magazine, "I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won't be the last" [source: Women in Congress]. Certainly, the groundbreaking representative from Montana was right that other women would join the government ranks, and, in fact, it wasn't her gender but rather her pacifism that led to her departure from politics. Elected during World War I, Rankin was one of 49 members of Congress to vote against America becoming involved in the international crisis, which cost her a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1918 [source: Encyclopædia Britannica].
Afterward, Rankin dedicated herself to social reform work, but was wooed back to the ballot in 1940 and elected yet again to represent Montana in Congress. Soon after she re-entered the political sphere, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, which triggered American involvement in World War II. The staunchly anti-war Rankin voted, for the second time around, for the United States to abstain from entering the military conflict. However, she was alone in her decision, attracting intense criticism from her fellow politicians and her constituents. When Rankin's congressional term expired, she declined to seek re-election. She died in 1973.
Author's Note: 10 Pioneering Female Politicians
Often in the United States, media stories about women in government focus on negatives: too few women in office or too few women interested in politics. Granted, there are many notable American women who have made their names in the political arena, although none have succeeded in snagging a seat in the Oval Office. Fortunately, taking a global view of women in politics offers many examples of how female prime ministers and presidents have steered their respective nations with aplomb. There's still a long way to go to close the global gender gap in government, but this list of the 10 Female Political Pioneers hopefully demonstrates that it's not an impossible goal.
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- Barron, James. "Shirley Chisholm, 'Unbossed' Pioneer in Congress, Is Dead at 80." The New York Times. Jan. 03, 2005. (July 10, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/03/obituaries/03chisholm.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
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- Dugger, Celia E. "Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka Dies at 84; First Woman Premier." The New York Times. Oct. 11, 2000. (July 10, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20001011wednesday.html
- Encyclopædia Britannica. "Jeannette Rankin." 2012. (July 10, 2012) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/491236/Jeannette-Rankin
- Encyclopædia Britannica. "Michelle Bachelet." 2012. (July 10, 2012) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1009973/Michelle-Bachelet
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- Gallardo, Eduardo. "In Chile, a vow that voices will be heard." The Boston Globe. Jan. 17, 2006. (July 10, 2012) http://articles.boston.com/2006-01-17/news/29241943_1_president-elect-sebastian-pinera-legislative-elections
- Kansas Historical Society. "Susanna Madora Salter." (July 10, 2012) http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/susanna-madora-salter/12191
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- Kirkwood, Thomas. "Why Women Live Longer." Scientific American. Oct. 21, 2010. (July 10, 2012) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-women-live-longer
- Library of Congress. "Ileana Ros- Lehtinen." Hispanic Americans in Congress." (July 10, 2012) http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/congress/roslehtinen.html
- Margaret Thatcher Foundation. "Biography." (July 10, 2012) http://www.margaretthatcher.org/essential/biography.asp
- Martin, Douglas. "She Ended the Men's Club of National Politics." The New York Times. March 26, 2011. (July 10, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/us/politics/27geraldine-ferraro.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all
- NPR. "The First Woman to Run for President." Oct. 13, 2008. (July 10, 2012) http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=95579577
- Terkel, Amanda. "Ileana Ros-Lehtenin Becomes First Republican to Cosponsor DOMA Repeal." The Huffington Post. Sept. 23, 2011. (July 10, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/23/ileana-roslehtinen-become_n_977464.html
- UN Women. "Executive Director." (July 10, 2012) http://www.unwomen.org/about-us/directorate/executive-director/
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- U.S. House of Representatives. "Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtenin." (July 10, 2012) http://ros-lehtinen.house.gov/about-me/full-biography
- U.S. House of Representatives. "Shirley A. Chisholm." Black Americans in Congress. (July 10, 2012) http://baic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=24
- Women in Congress. "Jeannette Rankin." Office of the Clerk. (July 10, 2012) http://womenincongress.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=202#foot1
The date the U.S. president must vacate office is written into the Constitution, election or not. Filling the seat without an election, though, is complicated.