Allyson Adams revives Jeannette Rankin’s legacy in new short play

Allyson Adams

Teacher, author, playwright and actress Allyson Adams discovered U.S. Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin’s story through biography “Flight of the Dove” by Kevin Giles in a Virginia City Bookstore in 1997.

“I felt kind of cheated I had never heard about her,” Adams said during an interview last week in her Virginia City home. Before that, history to Adams was “about war and men in bad wigs.” “It might have changed my whole life.”

But the meeting did change her life. Adams immediately took inspiration from Rankin’s story, turning it into a sweeping play covering 60 years in the first woman to hold federal office’s life from her childhood in Montana to her protest of the Vietnam War. It followed her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement, her successful runs for Montana’s lone Congressional seat, her “no” votes for entry into both WWI and WWII and her continued calls for peace. Adams read the play to her students, thinking it was too political to produce, but with their urging staged it at Virginia City’s Opera House.

 That play would become Adams’ one-woman show “Moment of Peace,” which toured Montana for a decade. She performed for groups of all sorts and as a teaching tool in schools, where the play fit in with English, history, government and drama curriculum. It also gave rise to the MontanaPBS docudrama “Peace is a Woman’s Job,” which Adams wrote, directed, produced and starred in using people and scenes from Virginia City. Her own house became a set, patriotic dressings on the back porch a stage where Rankin greeted the public after winning her first election. A prop sign announcing the “National American Woman Suffrage Assn.” still hangs under Adams’ porch.


Then came Sept. 11, 2001. Suddenly, the political climate changed as there was once again a push toward war. No one wanted to hear about a historic peacemaker.

“The only positive thing I could take away from it is this is how Jeannette felt,” Adams said. Allyson1.jpg

Adams turned to other projects, teaching drama to Ennis high schools students, coaching speech and debate, hosting writing retreats and leading the Tobacco Root Writers group, publishing her father’s memoir of his friendship with Elvis Presley, ”The Rebel & The King,” and working on her first cookbook.

“Not only did we do the whole Jeannette Rankin thing, but then life imitated art and I became the mayor of Virginia City,” Adams said.

Adams soon realized she would rather remain an artist than be a politician. As the 100th year anniversary of Rankin’s first election loomed, she knew she had to revisit Rankin’s story.

This time, the play, “Save the Country: How Belle Fligelman and Jeannette Rankin Changed the World,” takes place in the three years starting with Montana women gaining suffrage and ending with her first “no” vote. It also focuses on the relationship between Rankin and journalist-turned campaign manager Belle Fligelman. In many ways that relationship mirrors that of Adams and longtime collaborator Linsu Crowley.


Linsu Crowley

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Adams said of the years working on and touring the first Rankin play with Crowley. “In some small way, it’s kind of a tribute to her.”

Librarian Beth Boyson, Get Out’s library columnist, organized the event as part of a push to bring more free theatrical readings to the library. There is so much to learn from history, from the true stories of the world, Boyson explained.

“I admire Miss Rankin’s stance, a singular stance against war,” Boyson said. “The people of Montana took a brave step and elected her. It tells a little something about the character of the state and the character of Jeannette Rankin.” jeannette_real


Rankin was a political progressive, fighting for equal wages for women, for health and safety of workers, for education, care of infants and child nutrition. The name of the play, “Save the Country,” is taken from these ideals, from Rankin’s domestic agenda as opposed to the peace vote which is normally first in any discussion of her life.

“It is all together fitting and proper that a mother be at the bedside of her child to nurse him through typhoid fever, and it is all together fitting and proper that she then go out into the public forum to eradicate the conditions that gave her child the disease in the first place,” Rankin proclaims early in “Save the Country.” “It is for these women that have no voice, that I ask you to vote and dare to make women free.”

“Save the Country” is more modern and experimental than its predecessor, calling for a spotlight where actors speak directly to the audience. It also includes Rankin’s premonition of the testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico.

“Young people and Americans, they don’t know their history,” Adams said. “That’s why we keep repeating it.”

As for Adams, she may retire Rankin soon.

“It’s not that I want to spend my whole life on Jeannette,” she said, talking about Rankin’s platform from campaign finance reform to support for the GI Bill. “I want to clear up misconceptions.”

Allyson Adams

The first staged reading of “Save the Country: How Belle Fligelman and Jeannette Rankin Changed the World” is Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. in the Bozeman Public Library’s Community Room, 626 E. Main St. The free reading will feature Amber Rose Mason as Belle Fligelman, Adams as Jeannette Rankin and John Hosking as Wellington Rankin, Jeannette’s Harvard-educated brother and campaign financier. There will also be music by Bozeman singer-songwriter Edis Kittrell. A talkback with the writer and actors will follow the roughly 35-minute play and cake will be served. A full production will be staged at the Torch Theatre in Virginia City in summer 2017.

By Rachel Hergett at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Oct. 27, 2016


“Save the Country” by Allyson Adams

JrCapitol My new play “Save the Country” is about First U.S. Congresswoman and Montanan, Jeannette Rankin. This marks my fifth work on Rankin’s life, and coincides with the 100 Year Anniversary of Rankin’s election to Congress in 1916. “Save the Country” will have its first staged reading at the Bozeman Library on November 1, 2016 at 6pm. Bozeman Public Library 626 E. Main St. Bozeman, MT 59715. Phone: (406) 582-2400

My passion for Rankin ignited in 1997 when I moved back to Virginia City and discovered her biography “Flight of the Dove” by Kevin Giles. With a Montana PBS docudrama and a decade of one-woman shows under my belt, I am a Jeannette Rankin messenger for “Peace is a Woman’s Job.”

Whereas, my previous works focused on six decades of Rankin’s life, “Save the Country” is a emotional triangle during the three year period between Montana’s Suffrage victory and Rankin’s first No vote. The play delves into the relationship between Jeannette and her remarkable campaign manager, Belle Fligelman. “the woman behind the woman,” and Wellington, Jeannette’s Harvard educated brother and financier.

Within the span of three years, Jeannette led and won the fight for Montana Suffrage, immersed herself in New Zealand’s labor movement, became the first woman elected to any parliamentary body in the world and then voted No against U.S. entry into WWI, thus declaring her place in history. Yet nobody knows about her.

During the experimental short play, the three actors cross the 4th wall and reveal inner knowings with free poetic license. The play’s centerpiece is Rankin’s premonition of soldiers 28 years in the future, witnessing the first testing of the atomic bomb in Alamogorda, New Mexico.

A new side of Jeannette Rankin emerges. She’s famous for her peace actions, but she was about a lot more. She was at the beginning of the Progressive Movement in the early 1900’s and her focus was on domestic issues for women and children, equal pay, education and healthcare. Unfortunately, we’re still fighting for the same basic human needs and rights.

In 1916 Jeannette Rankin and Belle Fligelman changed the world.

Actress Amber Rose Mason will read the part of Belle Fligelman, Allyson Adams as Jeannette Rankin and John Hosking in the role of Wellington Rankin.


Belle Fligelman


Wellington Rankin

Please visit my Jeannette Rankin blog called Peace is a Woman’s Job  Jeannette Rankin movie and website

Here’s a new article in The New Yorker by Kate Walbert about Jeannette Rankin. Synchronicity!

A Century Before Hillary in the New Yorker.

Jeannette’s time has come once again with her 100 Year Anniversary to her election to Congress in 1916. Please visit for more about this remarkable woman.

“Save the Country” will have its first staged reading at the Bozeman Library on November 1, 2016 at 6pm. Bozeman Public Library 626 E. Main St. Bozeman, MT 59715. Phone: (406) 582-2400 


Allyson Adams