Celebrating Maine’s Trailblazers During Women’s History Month

From Harriet Beecher Stowe and Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby to Frances Perkins and Samantha Smith, Maine women have made an indelible mark on the history of our state, our nation, and our world.

And thanks to astronaut Jessica Meir, we can now say that the impact of Maine women reaches far beyond the planet Earth!

In celebration of these extraordinary women, and all women who have shaped history, I have proclaimed March 2023 as Women’s History Month in Maine.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills, and thank you for listening.

From America’s earliest days, women have played an important role in building our nation and world. But too many women – and their contributions – have been overlooked by our history books.

Women’s History Month encourages the study and celebration of the countless women who have played an important role in American history. And there is no shortage of trailblazing, history-making women who have called Maine their home.

Women like author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who helped Americans understand the horrors of slavery through her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written at her home in Brunswick.

Women like Frances Perkins, America’s longest-serving Secretary of Labor and the first woman to serve in the president’s cabinet. Perkins was a major force behind President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” that helped to pull our nation out of the Great Depression.

Women like Samantha Smith, a young student from Manchester, Maine, who became known as a “goodwill ambassador” around the world for her efforts to promote peace during the Cold War.

Women like Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby from Phillips—back in 1897, she became the first Registered Maine Guide.

Women like Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first woman’s marathon winner at the Olympics, and a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon.

Women like Margaret Chase Smith – the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress and the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for president at a major political party convention. 

Women like Olympia Snowe, first woman in history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress – not to mention a former first lady of Maine.

Women like Libby Mitchell, first woman to serve as both Speaker of the House of Representatives in Maine, and later, President of the Maine Senate.

Well, Maine women haven’t just made history – they’re making history now.

In 2019, Jessica Meir from Caribou became the first Maine woman to visit space – some say she may someday be the first woman to set foot on the moon.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, also from Caribou, recently became the longest serving Republican woman in the U.S. Senate. Serving alongside Congresswoman Pingree, women currently make up half of Maine’s Congressional Delegation.

In 2022, Brigadier General Diane Dunn retired after serving as the first woman general in the 200-year history of the Maine Army National Guard.

Last fall, Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland became the fourth woman – and first African American – to be elected Speaker of the Maine House. She is one of seven women – Republicans and Democrats -- currently serving in leadership roles in the Legislature. In the Senate, that includes Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, Assistant Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, and Assistant Minority Leader Lisa Keim. In the House, Majority Leader Maureen Terry, Assistant Majority Leader Kristen Cloutier, and Assistant Minority Leader Amy Arata.

And more than half of my cabinet is made up of accomplished women – nine commissioners who help oversee everything from public health and the environment to education and economic development. Nine out of fifteen – highest number ever women in the cabinet.

Well, I’ve been honored to have made history myself, as the first woman to be elected District Attorney in New England, the first woman to serve as Maine’s Attorney General, and the first woman to be elected – and now re-elected – Governor of Maine.

But I am confident that someday I’ll be remembered not as the “first,” but rather, as the “first of many.”

Maine women fill our history books. But every day, women across our state are making history without accolades or big titles. Some may be the first in their family to go to college or the first to be promoted to some role at work, the first to pick up a welding tool and become a welder, an electrician, or a contractor. But no matter how they make their mark on the world, the contributions of Maine women to our state, nation, and world are extraordinary. 

This month, and every month, I hope you’ll take time to learn more about women who have made some history – and continue to make – history here and around the world.

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.