Dominoes Episode Four

Charley couldn’t wait until he could begin working with his interns in person. But he had to wait until their academic semesters were over. He wanted to use the time until they met for further development of their thinking about what it took to be a difference maker. He decided to send another story to them for their reflection.

Jeannette Rankin was born in Montana in 1880, five years before Montana became a state. She was the oldest of six children to a wealthy mill owner and school teacher. She became a ranch hand and caregiver to her younger siblings. Even at a young age, she was able to prove that she was as capable as any man. She graduated from the University of Montana.

After college, she took an interest in social work and worked in San Francisco and Spokane. She then became involved in the women’s suffrage movement and helped the state of Washington become the fifth state to give women the right to vote. She then worked on women’s suffrage in other states before returning to Montana to lead the women’s suffrage movement in her home state.

Jeannette ran for one of Montana’s two at-large House of Representative seats as a Republican. She came in second, winning one of the two seats. She ran as a progressive candidate supporting suffrage, social progress, and prohibition of alcohol. She was also a strong pacifist. She was one 50 House members to vote against entering World War I.

While in the House, Jeannette continued to fight for women’s rights for vote and work conditions. She had developed opposition from those who were against her progressive reforms. Montana’s legislation decided to move from open seats to designated Congressional districts. She was place in a heavy Democratic district. She decided to run for the Senate, but lost in the primary.

After losing the election, she continued to fight for progressive causes. She also opposed the entry of the U.S. in World War II. After 20 years lobbying for causes dear to her, she grew frustrated with what she was able to accomplish. She decided to run for the House again.

She won a second term and created a stir when she was the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan. Her political career was effectively over.

After her term of office was over, she continued to fight for progressive causes. She became an icon for pacifists, civil rights activists, and feminists through the end of her life. She passed away at the age of 92.

Again, Charley asked for the interns to reflect on Jeannette’s life and what they learned from her story. He captured some of their thoughts in a follow-up email to them.


I’m so pleased that you find these stories inspiring. Some of the key words I highlighted from your reflections were: Bold, Values, Focus, Principled and Advocate. I want to use this story to challenge your thinking about being a difference maker. We often associate being first as being the same as being a difference maker. Think of the domino chain reaction. Pushing that first domino means nothing unless it triggers a chain reaction.

Jeannette’s first term in office was only two years. No woman was elected to serve in the House the next two years. The number of women selected to serve in the House of Representatives remained at less than 5 percent of the House membership for the next 80 years. The percentage didn’t top 25% until 2021.

I want you to think about what it takes to sustain change. Next week I’m going to send you a challenge to take on before we meet in person.

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“Change is easy to propose, hard to implement, and especially hard to sustain.” – Andy Hargreaves (educational advocate)

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