Date of Award

Spring 1993

Document Type




First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Rev. William Greytak

Third Advisor

Ann Bertagnolli


When I originally considered doing a thesis for graduation with honors, the subject matter became my obvious concern. I had attended a brief seminar conducted by David Walters, of the Montana Historical Society, on Jeannette Rankin. During the course of this seminar, Jeannette's brother, Wellington, was mentioned repeatedly. In his conclusion, Mr. Walter stated that Mr. Rankin's contribution to Montana history had never been investigated.I spent an afternoon at the Historical Society discussing the feasibility of a thesis on Wellington Rankin with the research librarian. I left that afternoon somewhat disillusioned after being told that there might not be enough material for such an undertaking. I approached Dr. Robert R. Swartout with my concerns, and he assured me that it would not be easy, but well worth the effort. Feeling somewhat more at ease, I began my research during the summer of 1992. Much to my surprise, there was a wealth of available material, and for the most part, it had never been touched.

Compiling a history of Wellington Rankin produced a number of problems. The first and most obvious problem concerned Rankin's distaste for writing. The vast majority of his communication was by telephone, which makes much of the information pertaining to his life exceedingly one-sided. The second problem concerned Rankin's relationship to the state and its history. It is reasonably safe to say that Rankin played an integral part in Montana party poltitcs, longer than anyone in the state's history. What I have attempted to do is give a brief overview of what was happening in the state at the beginning of each chapter so as to place the man in the overall picture. The first chapter deals with early Montana and the Rankin family. The second chapter focuses on the Progressive era and Jeannette's election to the U.S. Congress. The third chapter centers around the drought, and the Governor Joseph M. Dixon years. t Chapter four is about the depression years and Jeannette's return to congress. The final chapter concerns the final years of Wellington's life, and his political, legal, and ranching practices. Jeannette Rankin is mentioned frequently throughout the thesis. A history of Wellington would be incomplete without including his relationship with his sister. It is very possible that Jeannette might never had been elected to the United States House of Representatives without Wellington's expert campaign strategy and financial backing.