U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith was one of the dignitaries on hand for the 1964 ribbon-cutting of the Newport-Fairfield stretch of Interstate 95. Credit: BDN File Photo courtesy of Maine DOT

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Kim Rosen is in her fourth term in the Maine Senate and represents District 8. She is the Senate Republican lead for the Legislature’s Marine Resources and State and Local Government committees.

 As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s a time to reflect on the impact women have had on both our country and here in Maine. There’s no better testament to that than the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame (HOF) at the University of Maine in Augusta.

Notable inductees there include novelist Florence Brooks Whitehouse, who was a key figure in Maine’s suffrage movement. She founded the Maine branch of the Congressional Union (later the National Women’s Party) in 1915 and served as its chairman until suffrage was won five years later in 1920 through the 20th Amendment.

Known for her science acumen, inductee Dr. Elizabeth S. Russell was one of a few women elected to the National Academy of Science. She graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1937 and came to Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, where she retired as a senior staff scientist in 1978. In that time, she authored over 120 papers in the areas of aging, genetics and physiology and later served as a trustee for the University of Maine. She is currently a trustee for the College of the Atlantic.

One of the first women honored by the Hall of Fame was none other than Margaret Chase Smith, who was inducted after the center’s creation in 1990. She was the country’s first female U.S. representative after her election to Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in 1940 and served that body until she ran for and won a U.S. Senate seat in 1949. There, she ended up serving Maine for over two decades until 1973.

Smith was also the first woman to be entered for nomination at a major party’s convention when she ran in the U.S. presidential Republican primary against Barry Goldwater in 1964. She was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

Other inductees to the Hall of Fame include women’s health pioneer Mabel Sine Wadsworth; Olympians Julia Clukey and Joan Benoit Samuelson; Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins; and Maine’s first woman to practice law, Abbie “Gail” Laughlin, who passed the New York bar exam in 1899.

And not surprisingly, inductee Cornelia T. Crosby, known as “Fly Rod,” was Maine’s first registered guide after an 1897 law required hunting guides to be registered with the state. She also harvested the last legal caribou in Maine in 1898.

This year, the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame is set to add two new inductees to the 55 who have already been honored. Scheduled for March 19, this year’s ceremony will include reproductive rights activist Julia “Judy” Kahrl and astronaut Jessica Meir.

Kahrl championed childbirth education in the 1960s to increase women’s choices concerning anesthesia during delivery and the nation’s breastfeeding rates. Back then, only 15 percent of women in the U.S. breastfed their babies. She became involved with La Leche League, a women-led organization that promoted breastfeeding.

In 1996, Kahrl moved to Maine from Ohio and has been involved with local land conservation efforts of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust. She has also served on the Forest Conservation Collaborative and the Friends of Catalytic Conservation of The Nature Conservancy.

Jessica Meir was born and raised in Caribou. In 2013, she was selected as one of the eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s in space studies from the International Space University, and a doctorate in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

She launched into space in September 2019 and served as flight engineer on the International Space Station until April 17, 2020. While there, she conducted the first three all-female spacewalks with fellow NASA crewmate Christina Koch, totaling 21 hours and 44 minutes. In all, she spent 205 days, 3,280 orbits and a trip of 86.9 million miles in space.

We celebrate these women and the many others who have made Maine a better place.