A Take-Charge Girl Blazes a Trail to Congress: The Story of Jeannette Rankin

by Gretchen Woelfle (Author) Rebecca Gibbon (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

For take-charge girls in the making and fans of I Dissent and Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice, this is the story of Jeannette Rankin, the first US congresswoman.

Jeannette Rankin was always a take-charge girl. Whether taking care of horses or her little brothers and sisters--Jeannette knew what to do and got the job done. That's why, when she saw poor children living in bad conditions in San Francisco, she knew she had to take charge and change things.

But in the early twentieth century, women like Jeannette couldn't vote to change the laws that failed to protect children. Jeannette became an activist and led the charge, campaigning for women's right to vote. And when her home state, Montana, gave women that right, Jeannette ran for Congress and became America's first congressWOMAN!

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Kirkus Reviews

A yes vote for this title’s inclusion on children’s bookshelves.


Starred Review
This lively biography showcases one tireless activist, Jeannette Rankin from Montana, who became the first U.S. congresswoman in 1916 and whose fight for all women to have the right to vote was key in ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Rankin's story is made relatable to young readers through Woelfle's focus on how 'take-charge' she was, starting as a child...The section on Rankin's campaign for Congress, in which she crisscrossed 6,000 miles of Montana by train and horse, is riveting. The illustrations, done in colored pencils and acrylic inks, jauntily convey period detail.

Publishers Weekly

"Take-charge girl" Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) inspires in this lively, quote-filled picture book about her journey to become the first U.S. congresswoman. Early scenes of Rankin's Montana upbringing highlight her can-do attitude, leading into descriptions of her later charitable work in San Francisco and New York City, where the hardships she witnesses galvanize her to campaign for women's suffrage and to run for office. Woefle narrates with a conversational tone that makes Rankin feel accessible ("But what if... Montana elected a CONGRESSWOMAN?!"). Rankin exudes confidence in quaint acrylic ink and colored pencil artwork that portrays doll-like figures with various skin tones, though the text does not address racial disparities around the right to vote. A concluding scene of the politician striding to the Capitol accentuates the boundless energy stressed by text: "But she wasn't there for smiles and handshakes./ She had work to do!" An author's note, timeline, bibliography included. Ages 7-10. (Feb.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Woelfle wisely begins the narrative in Rankin's youth, then leads into her suffragist activism and her political career...The text as a whole grounds Rankin's ambitions in her determination to advocate for children, and such framing will likely make the book more accessible to young readers, as will the energetic illustrations. Gibbon's acrylic ink and colored pencil pictures have a homespun, folk-art quality to them, offering readers depictions of Rankin's early life...A yes vote for this title's inclusion on children's bookshelves. -Kirkus 

Gretchen Woelfle
Gretchen Woelfle is the author of multiple award-winning fiction and nonfiction books for young readers, including Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer, Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren, and Mumbet's Declaration of Independence. She lives in Los Angeles, California. gretchenwoelfle.com.

R. Gregory Christie is the award-winning illustrator of over fifty children's books, including The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children, edited by Davida Adedjouma, which won a Coretta Scott King Honor for illustration, and Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth, which was selected as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. He lives in Decatur, Georgia, where he also owns and operates a bookstore that sells autographed children's books. gas-art.com
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Calkins Creek Books
Publication date
February 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF007110 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Social Activists
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
United States
Women legislators
Women political activists
Rankin, Jeannette

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