Important Women in Maine History


According to, the earliest inhabitants of Maine were descendants of Ice Age Hunters. The women who came along with them had to be strong.

As the state positioned the furthest northeast you can expect some challenging terrain. What you may not expect is Maine produces 90% of our nation’s lobster supply and 99% of our blueberries.

Gail H. Laughlin (1868-1952)

As the first woman from Maine to practice law, Laughlin was also the first female member of the Maine legislature with a law degree. During her term with the Maine House and Senate, she worked for the prevention of cruelty to animals and environmental protection. According to the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), she was instrumental in the creation of the Department of Health.

Elizabeth S. Russell (1913-2001)

Russell is a scientist; one of the few women in the National Academy of Science. UMA notes her specialty was patterns of aging and blood abnormalities. Over the years she taught college classes, wrote over 120 papers, participated in local government, and mentored other young women.

Dorothy Murphy Healy (died 1990)

Healy cofounded and was curator of The Maine Women Writers Collection where she proudly preserved the writings of local women. Many of these works may have been lost if not for Healy’s hard work.

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995)

Senator Smith holds the distinction of being the first woman to run for president for a major party. She ran for the Republican nomination after spending several years in the US Senate and being the first female elected to a leadership post. Senator Smith is also well known for her Declaration of Conscious speech, in which she spoke out against Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was believed to have Communist sympathies.

Miriam MacMillan (1905-1987)

A lover of the sea from childhood, MacMillan was (according to Bowdoin, Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum) the first woman to steer a ship through heavy ice to within 660 miles of the North Pole.

Julie Croteau (b.1970)

It’s hard to believe that as recently as 30 years ago women struggled to be recognized in the world of sports. Croteau was one of the women leading the way, fighting sexism to play baseball with the boys. Even though many folks admitted she was as good as or better than the boys, old habits die hard. Read about her story in Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball by Barbara Gregorich.

Margaret Brent (ca.1601-ca.1671)

Two hundred years before women were given the right to vote, Brent found herself in a courtroom requesting that right for herself. Not much is known about Brent, but she is credited as the first woman in the New World to make such a request. She was a successful businesswoman and landowner back in a time when this was unheard of. According to her biography, she never married and handled some of her brother’s business dealings.