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Four Years Before Women Had the Right to Vote, Jeannette Rankin Was Elected to Congress

In 1916, four years before the Constitution recognized her right to vote, Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress. While women had not achieved suffrage across the U.S. yet, there were no laws barring them from holding office in the Capitol. So Rankin, with her belief that “men and women are like right and left hands; it doesn’t make sense not to use both,” set out to fight for change for women from within the government.

Rankin was sworn in as a representative from Montana in April 1917.

She had helped secure women the right to vote in her home state three years earlier and had intended to bring the fight to the rest of the nation early in her term. The 65th Congress would not have a normal session that year, though, and not only would Rankin’s plans be derailed, but another of her convictions – her anti-war sentiment – would be tested and become the focal point of her term.

Just Say No

World War I was raging in Europe, and just before Congress convened that spring, Germany had declared unrestricted submarine warfare on all Atlantic shipping. Woodrow Wilson had requested Congress declare war against Germany, but Americans and their representatives were still divided on whether the U.S. should enter the conflict. The government was wary of foreign entanglements, but with the news of submarine warfare on American interests, many moods on Capitol Hill shifted quickly.

Rankin’s had not. She’d campaigned on a pacifist platform and was not about to change her mind on the matter. Just a month into her term, the House voted on a resolution to enter the war. When the roll call first came on the vote, Rankin remained silent. Representative Joe Cannon of Illinois approached her on the floor afterward and advised her, “Little woman, you cannot afford not to vote. You represent the womanhood of the country in the American Congress.”

On the second roll call, she voted “no” and entered a comment with her vote, stating: “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.” Forty-nine others voted with her, but the war was on, and Rankin took criticism from war hawks nationwide for the duration of the conflict. Even suffrage groups dropped their support of her, though they would later come out against the war.

The publicity and the unpopularity of her beliefs did not seem to faze Rankin. She got right to securing suffrage for women, opening the congressional debate on the Susan B. Anthony Amendment later that year. Just three years later, the 19th Amendment was ratified and gave women nationwide the right to vote. Rankin, ironically, did not even get to vote on the amendment; she was no longer in Congress at the time. By the end, the public had overwhelmingly come to support the war, and when Rankin’s term was over the year before, her pacifism cost her both reelection to the House and a Senate campaign. The amendment she’d worked so hard on was voted on—and passed—by an all-male Congress.

Out of Office

Rankin worked in the private sector for a few years and returned to Congress in 1939. This time, she was joined by five other women in the House and two in the Senate. Two years later, on a day that would live in infamy, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The morning after, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke before a Joint Session of Congress and called for a formal declaration of war on Japan. The Senate obliged in less than an hour and the House leaders felt pressure to follow suit. During the vote, Rankin commented, “as a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”  The final vote was 388-1, with Rankin as the sole dissenter.

Rankin’s public image suffered and she was denounced by both the press and other politicians. She knew her pacifism would, as it had decades before, cost her re-election. When her term was up, she didn't even run.

Even after her political career ended, Ranking continued to further the cause of pacifism. In the late 1960s, she protested the Vietnam War at marches in Washington. She died in the spring of 1973,  just two years before Saigon fell and the US pulled out of Vietnam.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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