- Ten million soldiers to the war have gone,
- Who may never return again.
- Ten million mother’s hearts must break
- For the ones who died in vain.
- Head bowed down in sorrow
- In her lonely years,
- I heard a mother murmur thru’ her tears
- I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,
- (American Pacifist song)
There was a wind of change blowing through the United States in 1916. Not only change from the attitude expressed by President Woodrow Wilson on the 10th May 1915. “There is such thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.” American volunteers had formed the Escadrille Americaine, a fighter squadron in French service. Later in the war The Escadrille Americaine changed the name to the Lafayette Escadrille.
“So stand by your glasses steady.
The world is a web of lies.
Then here’s to the dead already,
And hurrah to the next man who dies.”
(Mess song of the Lafayette Escadrille)
Americans were crossing over to Canada to enlist in the British Empire’s Armed Forces, it seemed that Pacifist America was, if not dead, rapidly dying.
There was another wind of change blowing across America, Female Emancipation. By the time the wind it had reached the American Western state of Montana it had reached the level of a typhoon, Jeanette Rankin announced her intention to run for Congress for Montana on 11th July 1916 in Butte, a small Irish American Mining town.The typhoon of change sent Jeanette Rankin to the United States Congress. The U.S first Congresswoman. Jeanette was a well educated gifted speaker. No stranger to politics and not afraid to speak her mind. Jeanette was determined to make her make on American history. Like most people who run for political office, Jeanette wanted a better world. Unlike the increasing majority in Congress, Jeanette did not see the threat to a better life as the Germans or the defeat of the Allies. For her, the threat to a better future was war itself. Jeanette could not possible vote for involvement in the war. She sat listening to the debate in Congress, time after time Congressmen stood up and declared at varying length their support for war. No doubt some thought that the very declaration of American involvement would bring the war to an end, that no American boys would have to fight. The overwhelming view of the House as it was in the Senate, was for war. The resolution came to the vote at 3 a.m. On Good Friday, 6th April 1917. Jeanette just sat still in her seat. The clerk asked twice the second time more loudly than the first, Jeanette just sat there ashen faced. The republican Joe Cannon is reported to have said to her, (P94 Flight of the Dove.)
“Little woman, you cannot afford not to vote. You represent the womanhood of the country in the American Congress, I shall not advise you how to vote. But you should vote one way or the other, as your conscience dictates.”
With tears in her eyes, Jeanette Rankin stood up and said,
“I want to stand by my country, but I can not vote for war, I vote no.”
The United States House of Congress was stunned into silence. Her political career, at least for the time being, was over. Despite being part of the winds of change sweeping the United states, Jeanette remained true to her convictions. She had been elected on a promise to keep Montana’s sons out of the war, and she was not going to change her mind. Jeanette was now the subject of verbal abuse. The suffragette movement turned their back on her. Montana turned her back on her. It seemed her life campaigning for a fairer better America was at an end.
Jeanette Rankin did stand for election again, and in the elections prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour won a seat in Congress for the second time. Again when a resolution was put to the House of Congress for war, Jeanette voted against America joining WWII. In the sixties Jeanette, for the third time, although not in Congress, campaigned against American involvement in another war. Jeanette died on 18th May 1973, still the rarest of politicians, that of one who keeps their word.
Flight of the Dove, Kevin S. Giles. Touchstone Press, 1980, ISBN 0-918688
The Lafayette Flying Corps, Gordon.