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NMSU Women's History Month highlights 'A Single Woman' film about first U.S. congresswoman

She was a Republican and a pacifist. "A Single Woman," a film about Jeanette Rankin, the first U.S. Congresswoman who voted against both world wars, will be screened at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, at the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla as part of New Mexico State University's celebration of Women's History Month.

The screening is a collaboration between the Mesilla Valley Film Society and NMSU's Women's Studies program. Admission will be $4 for non-film society members and $1 for members.

"Jeannette Rankin should be inspiring for women and men - people who have a passion and who want to make a difference in their world," said Mary Benanti, event organizer and assistant professor of women's studies. "Telling stories of people who succeeded in doing that are timeless. Look at how Lincoln has inspired our young President Obama. Young people want role models."

The film begins in 1972 when Rankin is 92 years old and moves backward in time through her years working as the first U.S. congresswoman. Rankin ran for Congress in Montana in 1916 and won, against all odds. The subject of her first vote (against President Wilson's WWI war resolution) set the stage for her destiny.

In 1920, Rankin was founding vice-president of the American Civil Liberties Union who, in 1933, tried to persuade President Roosevelt to revise immigration laws and allow Jewish refugees into the United States.

Twenty-two years after her first term, in 1940, Rankin was re-elected as congresswoman from Montana on a peace platform and once again voted against a world war, this time as the lone anti-war voice in Congress. She was mobbed and vilified and spent the rest of her life traveling to India, studying the teachings and methods of Mohandas Gandhi and the effects of colonialism on peoples all over the world.

"In my "Women and the U.S. Presidency" class, I've watched students come alive and be inspired by the women who put themselves on the line to give women a voice in government," Benanti said.

During the Vietnam era, Rankin enjoyed a renaissance when the anti-war culture of the day celebrated her perseverance as a dedicated pacifist and human rights advocate. She died in 1973.

"A Single Woman" is narrated by Martin Sheen. The soundtrack features the music of Joni Mitchell.

For more information visit www.nmsu.edu/~wstudies/ or call 575-646-3448.