House Passes Meng Legislation Honoring 100th Anniversary of First Woman Sworn-Into Congress
Mar 21, 2017
Measure would rename existing STEM grant program after former Rep. Jeannette Rankin
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the nation continues its observance of Women’s History Month, the House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) that would honor the 100th anniversary of the first woman sworn-into Congress, former Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana).
The 100 Years of Women in Congress Act (H.R. 382), would rename the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program (WAMS)” to the “Jeannette Rankin Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program.” Rankin, in addition to being the first woman elected to Congress, was a trailblazer in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1902.
“Today, the House fully embraces Women’s History Month by passing my legislation commemorating the incredible legacy of Rep. Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, even before women had the right to vote,” said Meng. “From politics to the sciences, Rep. Rankin was a true pioneer who continues to be an inspiration for women everywhere. I am grateful that my colleagues unanimously agreed to recognize her impact on our nation’s history by passing the 100 Years of Women in Congress Act.”
If renamed, the WAMS program would remain a competitive grants program for colleges and universities to encourage women and minorities to pursue research, degrees, and careers in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but are still vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. Although gains have been made, women still comprise only 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.
Born in 1880, Jeannette Rankin represented the state of Montana in the House. She was elected on November 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 also had ties to New York City. She helped organize the New York Women's Suffrage Party and worked for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which was headquartered in New York City. She attended the New York School of Philanthropy which later became part of Columbia University.
The 100 Years of Women in Congress Act was co-authored by former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana), now Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The legislation passed unanimously by voice vote. The bill also passed the House during the last session of Congress by a vote of 377-6.