Honoring Women for their Contributions
This spring, two notable women have been inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame: Joyce Taylor Gibson and Leigh I. Saufley.
Joyce Gibson is a distinguished educator and advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, and social justice. She is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies at University of Southern Maine (USM) and former Dean of USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College. With an extensive background in administration, she has done much over the years to build partnerships between Maine communities and the university.
Leigh Saufley is dean of the University of Maine School of Law and former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. In her position now, working with young people who are studying to become lawyers, she is dedicated to having “diversity at the table.”
Since 1990, more than 50 women in Maine have been inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame, housed at the Katz Library on the University of Maine Augusta campus. The Hall of Fame is dedicated to women whose achievements and contributions have had a significant statewide impact, have significantly improved the lives of women, and have provided enduring value for women.
Inductees are recognized by the Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women/Futurama Foundation. The National Women’s Hall of Fame was founded in the late 1960s with other states following suit. Maine is among some 25 other states who honor notable women in such a way.
“Margaret Chase Smith was the first inductee. She was in her 80s, tiny and frail and as pleasant as could be,” recalls Thomas Abbott, then Dean of Libraries and Distance Learning at UMA. Tom was among the original group of people who oversaw the creation of the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame. “We didn’t have a location for it, and the Katz Library had an appropriate section, so we all agreed this was a good place to recognize the inductees by showcasing their pictures and accompanying biographies.”
“There is quite a long history of these strong women,” Tom says, noting the late Patti Bourgoin of Augusta was certainly one of them. She collaborated with UMA in creating the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.
Stacey Brownlie, the current Director of Library Services at UMA, says that the Hall of Fame area often catches visitors’ eyes while they visit the Katz Library. “I’ve observed patrons walking by and stopping with surprise. I also sometimes hear them remarking that they have a connection to a certain awardee.” She goes on, “The Admissions Department highlights the display during campus tours. It integrates nicely with the Holocaust and Human Rights Center, which is just outside in the hallway.”
While some may say the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame is the well-kept secret, Tom recalls as many as 300 people have attended an induction ceremony, which traditionally is an event celebrated with a tea. The ceremony usually coincides with Women’s History Month each March.
The nomination process is quite simple. A woman, either living or deceased, may be nominated by an organization or an individual. Nominees must meet all of the following criteria mentioned above: the woman’s achievement has had a significant statewide impact, her achievement has significantly improved the lives of women in Maine, and her contribution has enduring value for women. The nomination form is found online: https://bpwmefoundation.org
Last year, the 31st annual induction ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic. This year, a virtual ceremony was held on March 20, 2021, for this year’s inductees, Joyce Gibson and Leigh Saufley. People across the state join with those who were present at that occasion—to honor, thank, and celebrate these two women for their achievements and contributions on behalf of the women of Maine.
Some Honorees in Maine Women’s Hall of Fame
Cornelia Thurza “Fly Rod” Crosby (1854–1946). First licensed Maine Guide, advocate for Maine outdoor sports, published in the national magazine Fly Rod’s Notebook, and was a role model for active, capable outdoorswomen.
Florence Brooks Whitehouse (1869–1945). Feminist, suffragist, activist for women’s rights and world peace, novelist (The God of Things and The Effendi), chair for 13 years of the Maine branch of the National Women’s Party, and host of a weekly radio program on peace.
Mildred “Brownie” Schrumpf (1903–2001). Home economist, food educator, Maine Department of Agriculture’s “Unofficial Ambassador of Good Eating,” and author of weekly food columns for Bangor Daily News.
Elizabeth “Tibby” Russell (1913–2001). Geneticist and biologist, did groundbreaking work in pigmentation and germ cells, raised awareness of lab animals in biomedical research, and assessed the need for biomedical researchers on the national level.
Katherine L. Ogilvie Musgrave (1920–2015). Dietician, nutritional consultant, president of Maine Dietetic Association, co-author of nutrition textbook, and creator of a nutrition curriculum for Maine Department of Education.
Judith Magyar Isaacson (1925–2015). Holocaust survivor, director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Maine, member of Bowdoin College Board of Overseers, and board member of Central Maine Medical Center.
Marti Stevens (1939–1993). Educator, theater director, and founder of adult education, literacy, and theater programs for high school dropouts, teen parents, the disabled, prison inmates, and seniors.
Chilton Knudsen (1946– ). Eighth Bishop of Maine, former pastoral care officer in the Diocese of Chicago, missionary in Haiti, and Assisting Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
Gilda E. Nardone (1948– ). Co-founder and director of the Displaced Homemakers Program, and women’s advocate, assisting middle-aged and older women thrust into the role of family breadwinner.
Sharon H. Abrams (1950– ). Advocate for teen and working parents, longtime Executive Director at Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, certified teacher, and licensed social worker.
Lynn Mikel Brown (1956– ). Professor of Education at Colby College, co-founder of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, and co-producer of a documentary that addresses homophobia and youth suicide.
Julia Clukey (1985– ). Former Olympic luger, motivational speaker, founder of self-confidence girls summer camp, advocate of good-decision making and responsibility, spokesperson for Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association, and survivor of Arnold-Chiari Syndrome.