Jeannette Rankin portrait painting by Sharon Sprung

This portrait of Jeannette Rankin painted by Sharon Sprung communicates both the cultural importance and the loneliness of her position as the first woman elected to Congress. Standing in the empty corridor adjacent to the House Chamber, Rankin is depicted holding the Washington Post, in which her 1917 swearing-in was front page news.

The vacant, cool-toned space and her look of resigned calm reflect her singularity as a woman in the legislative branch three years before women’s suffrage became federal law.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

Jeannette Rankin is a popular woman this week.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines introduced a proposal to put her face on the $10 bill Thursday, only two days after she became a finalist for the name of a new Billings middle school.

The U.S. Treasury announced Wednesday that Alexander Hamilton is getting the boot and a woman’s portrait will be featured on a redesigned $10 bill.

Daines is determined that Rankin, the Missoula woman who was the nation's first female member of Congress, be first in line.

His bill mandates that “Federal Reserve notes bear the likeness of Jeannette Rankin before the likeness of any other woman appears on a Federal Reserve note.”

Rankin represented Montana for two terms after being elected in 1916 and 1940 and voted against the U.S. entering both world wars, casting the lone no vote after Peal Harbor was attacked.

“Jeannette Rankin, a proud Montanan and the first woman to serve in Congress, has left a lasting mark on our nation’s democratic process,” Daines said in a news release. “She is a true example of America’s rich legacy of service and I urge the Treasury to make her the first woman to serve as the face of our paper currency.”

Even with Daines in her corner, Rankin faces stiff competition from several other pioneering women. Rankin was left out of the finalists in “Women on 20s,” a push to put a woman on the $20 bill, in favor of candidates like Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The “Women on 20s” group considered Andrew Jackson an excellent candidate for eviction, in large part because of his Indian removal policies. But the $10 bill was next in line for an update.

Rankin is certainly a “worthy choice,” said Karen Stevenson, a community historian who lives in Miles City and previously advised a Montana women's history website.

For Stevenson, it was Rankin's world war no votes that stick out most.

“It showed that she wasn’t going to be bullied by a bunch of men,” she said. “She followed what she believed.”

That pacifism is just as much a part of her legacy as her breaking of gender barriers.

"It would be a great reminder of the peace activist that she was," Stevenson said. "I think we still need that."

Stevenson would like to see some other currency portraits swapped out.

“There are so many other women that are worthy of that,” she said. “I hope they keep doing that.”

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