Reps. Meng and Zinke Introduce Legislation to Honor the 100th Anniversary of the First Woman Elected to Congress

Feb 17, 2016
Press Release

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) introduced legislation to honor the 100th anniversary of the first woman elected to Congress.

The 100 Years of Women in Congress Act would pay tribute to former Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) – who was elected to the House in 1916 – by renaming in her honor a key science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program that provides grants to colleges and universities who encourage women and minorities to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields.

The bill 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 was a pioneer in STEM, having graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1902.

“Rep. Jeannette Rankin was a pioneer in every sense of the word, both as a woman in national politics and as a woman in STEM,” said Meng. “As a Member of Congress who was elected to represent the state of Montana before women even had the right to vote, and as a woman who graduated from the University of Montana with a biology degree in 1902, she was truly ahead of her time. We believe that renaming this critical program after her is the least Congress can do to honor a remarkable individual and the first 100 years of women in Congress. I thank Rep. Zinke for partnering with me on this important effort, and I urge my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“Montanans have always been pioneers, and Jeanette Rankin is the perfect example of that, leading the way for women in STEM and politics at a time when many women didn’t even have the right to vote,” said Rep. Zinke. “It’s important to remember who blazed the trail before us and look to them as mentors and inspiration. I’m happy to partner with Rep. Grace Meng on this.”

If renamed, the program would remain a competitive grants program supporting research and extension projects that seek to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Although gains have been made in the STEM fields, 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 one of Montana’s two at-large House seats. 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.

The Meng/Zinke bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee. A copy of the measure is attached.