Almanac: A vote against war

Almanac: A "Nay" vote following Pearl Harbor

December 8, 1941 marked a moment of déjà vu for Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana.

Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor just the day before, killing more than 2,400 U.S. service personnel and civilians. In his defiant "Day of Infamy" speech before Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt demanded action: "I ask that the Congress to declare a state of war."

Unanimous approval of a war declaration would have seemed assured, if not for the presence of Representative Rankin.

The first woman ever elected to Congress, and a lifelong pacifist, she'd been one of just 50 members to vote against entering World War I back in 1917.

Now, in a case of history repeating itself, Rankin voted against war for a second time ... only this time she stood alone.

Booed off the House floor, Rankin briefly took refuge in a telephone booth, "like a cornered rabbit," wrote the Washington Post.

Rankin chose not to run again in 1942, and devoted the rest of her life to pacifist causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War. She died in 1973 at age 92, her controversial reputation for standing on principle intact.

     
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Story produced by Robert Marston.