Class of 2009
1870 – 1948
Achievements in: business, reindeer herding, and serving as a translator
Changunak Antisarlook Andrewuk, known as Sinrock Mary, Queen of Reindeer, was Russian and Inupiaq and spoke Russian, English and her Native language. After her first husband succumbed to the measles epidemic in 1900, she was disqualified from owning property both as a woman and Native, but she fought to keep her half of the reindeer herd and eventually became one of the richest women in Alaska. A savvy businesswoman, she sold meat to local businesses and the Army station. Her second husband wasnt interested in herding, but Mary trained some of her children and many other Inupiaq to become reindeer herders. She is remembered as a hero for her tenacity, generosity and friendship.
1910 – 1987
Achievement in: philanthropy, writing
Evangeline Atwood, a third-generation Alaskan, was very important in the fight for statehood, organizing the group “Operation Statehood.” In 1950, she started the Anchorage League of Voters and then the Alaska Statehood Association, with a mission of bringing a favorable popular vote on statehood by informing the public of the pros and cons of territorial status vs. statehood. In addition to authoring many books about Alaska, Evangeline was instrumental in establishing the Alaska World Affairs Council, the Parent-Teacher Council in Anchorage, and the Cook Inlet Historical Society.
1925 – 2007
Achievement in: science, history, writing
Lydia Black was an anthropologist whose research restored to Alaskan peoples important features of their history and culture. Black was known for emphasizing artistic and cultural accomplishments rather than the social skills of Alaska Native cultures. “They know they have problems. My job is to remind them of their glory,” she said.
Born in the Ukraine, educated in Russia, Germany and the United States, Black became a professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984. Black retired in 1998 and continued her work in Kodiak where she helped translate and catalogue Russian archives.
Achievement in: traditional medicine and native leadership
Yup ik elder Rita Blumenstein was born on a fishing boat and raised in the Yup ik village of Tununak on Nelson Island, Alaska. A traditional healer and spiritual leader, Rita was a tribal doctor for the South Central Foundation, and is currently a member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, “a global alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth. . . and for the next seven generations to come.”
1904 – 1982
Achievements in: education, public service
Born in Unalakleet, raised in Shaktoolik, and educated at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon, Emily Ivanoff Brown, whose Eskimo name was Tikasuk, was an educator for 30 years and devoted herself to record and pass on knowledge about the unwritten history of all her Inupiaq people. She obtained a provisional teaching certificate and became a grade school teacher and an advocate of bilingual education.
Emily’s service to her state was widely known and she received many awards throughout her lifetime, including a presidential citation from Richard Nixon for her “exceptional service to others, in the finest American tradition.”
1934 – 2007
Achievement in: politics
Born in the Philippines, Thelma came to the U.S. in 1951 at age 15, earned a degree in biology, and eventually moved to Anchorage in the late 60s. Politically active, she ran George McGoverns 1972 presidential campaign in Alaska. In 1974, she was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives, where she served four terms, becoming the first Filipino American legislator in the U.S.
Once her children finished college, she obtained her J.D. degree from the District of Columbia School of Law in 1991. In 1994, she was appointed Director of Alaskas Office of Equal Opportunity. An expert on Alaskan/Filipino History, Thelma wrote Filipinos in Alaska: 1788-1958 and produced a documentary film on the topic.
Achievement in: politics
From 1952 until 1968, Edith was secretary of the Arctic Circle Chamber of Commerce and also served on the Board of Directors of the Alaska State Chamber. She was elected twice to the House of Representatives (1953-1956) and once to the Territorial Senate (1957-1958). In 1967, she was named the Outstanding Alaskan and was appointed by Walter Hickel to the University of Alaskas Board of Regents where she helped shape the future of the university, serving as a Regent from 1967-1975 and a UA Foundation Trustee from 1979-1983.
1954 – 2006
Achievement in: sports
Susan Butcher won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second woman ever to do so, and then went on to set more records: she was the second 4-time winner in 1990, and the first to win 4 out of 5 sequential races. She ran the race 17 times, with 15 finishes in the top 10 and 12 in the top five. Susan was inducted into the Iditarod Hall of Fame in 1997. She was the first and only person to take a sled dog team to the top of Denali.
Susan was an incredible athlete and an inspiration to all women. To honor her memory, the first Saturday in March the State of Alaska celebrates Susan Butcher Day.
1845 – 1925
Achievement in: business, prospecting, and humanitarian work
A diminutive woman who often dressed as a man and never married, Nellie Cashman was one of Alaska’s original female entrepreneurs, as well as a prospector and an “angel of mercy.” From opening grocery stores and restaurants to wandering the frontier mining camps of Alaska seeking her fortune, she was soon known by all she encountered for her charity, courage, and determination. Nellie was a resourceful woman who knew what she wanted. She was rewarded with modest wealth, but was constantly giving it away to the poor and needy. She was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame in 2006.
1875 – 1965
Achievement in: education
Orah Clark was a pioneer school teacher. She was the first Superintendent of the first Anchorage school. She helped establish schools up and down the railroad belt, in Wasilla, Eske, Fairview, and Matanuska. She taught in Unga, Kennicott, Ouzinkie, Takotna, Kiana and Nushagek , ending her 51-year career in Moose Pass. A champion of Native rights, she believed that all children should be integrated in schools to foster individual growth.
Achievement in: education
Carol Comeau has led Alaska’s public education system to be responsive to the needs of all children, particularly those who have difficulty achieving academic success in the classroom. While the majority of her career was based in Anchorage as a teacher, principal, administrator, and ultimately in 2000, the Superintendent of the Anchorage School District, she also directed the Alaska Association of School Administrators in the effort to increase state funding for all schools in the state.
During Carol’s service, she appealed to the community as a whole–to citizens who don’t have children, businesses, and service organizations to act on our mutual responsibility to be involved with kids in order to produce caring, competent and involved adults.
1904 – 1929
Achievement in: aviation
Marvel Crosson learned to fly in San Diego, California. She followed her brother, Joe Crosson, to Alaska in 1927, where she received the first aviation license issued to a female pilot in the Alaska Territory. The press nicknamed her “Bird Girl” and “Pollyanna of the North” in honor of her exploits, which included setting a new altitude record for women in 1929. Marvel died in August, 1929, when her parachute failed to open properly after the plane’s engine quit.
1912 – 2007
Achievements in: law, civil rights
Amidst her long and distinguished career in the law, Mahala Ashley Dickerson achieved many “firsts.” After graduating from Fisk University in 1935, she married, raised triplets and, in 1945, graduated from Howard University Law School. She became, in 1946, the first African-American woman admitted to the bar in Alabama, the second African-American woman to be admitted to the bar in Indiana, in 1951, and in 1958, was the first African-American female admitted to the Alaska bar. In 1975, she successfully prosecuted a precedent-setting equal pay case on behalf of women university professors who received less pay than their male counterparts. In 1983, she became the first African-American to serve as the President of the National Association of Women Lawyers. She even homesteaded in Wasilla, which undoubtedly was another first for an African-American woman! In her many years of practicing law, until she was 91, she was known for fighting for the rights of women and minorities.
1914 – 2010
Achievement in: politics, music
When Neva Egan moved to Valdez from Wyoming in 1937, she never imagined a one-year teaching assignment would lead to a lifetime of dedication to Alaska. She married two-time governor William A. Egan in 1941 and became the First Lady of the State of Alaska, serving from 1959 – 1966. She was First Lady again from 1970 – 1974.
At 91 in 2006, she spoke with the Juneau Empire about her unique perspective on Alaska. “It was so thrilling to be able to participate in and help to build a new state. How many people are fortunate enough to do that? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Achievement in: law
Dana Fabe has had a varied, distinguished and unique career in the legal profession in Alaska. In 1996, she became the first woman appointed to the Alaska Supreme Court and, in 2000, became the first female Chief Justice. She is completed a second term as Chief Justice. Along the way, she mentored young women attorneys and students.
In addition to her accomplishments as an attorney and on the bench, she has been active in a wide variety of community settings. She has trained young students as judges for the Youth Court; chaired the planning committee for the women’s reentry conference, “Success Inside & Out” at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, traveled to large and small Alaskan communities to host the “Open Court” public outreach program, and served on the boards of Soropotomists and the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.
1927 – 2000
Achievement in: journalism
Kay Fanning loved journalism. She served as editor and publisher of the Anchorage Daily News, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, and first woman president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Kay came to Alaska in 1965. She worked at the Anchorage Daily News, where she met and married Larry Fanning. Together they purchased the paper, which he edited until his death from a heart attack at his desk in 1971. She then managed and edited the paper and transformed it into a hard-hitting, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative paper and increased its circulation from 12,000 to 50,000–overtaking the circulation numbers of the larger Anchorage Times. In 1983, she moved to Boston and became the first woman to edit a national newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor. She broke through journalism’s prejudices against women and modeled success for the next generation of female reporters, editors and business managers.
1912 – 1986
Achievement in: politics
Arriving in Alaska in 1945, Helen Fischer became involved in political activities and the struggle for statehood. She was elected to serve as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention (1955-56) where she served on the Committees on the Legislative branch and the structure of the Administration. She argued unsuccessfully to include gender in the non-discrimination clause of the Alaska Bill of Rights, “Mr. President, I think sex definitely should be (protected) in this proposal because there are still states in the Union where women are not allowed to serve on juries.”
Ms. Fischer served in the last Territorial House of Representatives in 1957-59 as well as in the first legislature of the new state. She returned to the legislature from 1971-75 where she was a tireless advocate for women’s rights. She also served as the Alaska representative to the Democratic National Committee from 1956-1963.
Achievements in: education, business, feminism
Lucy is an educator, curriculum developer, businesswoman and accomplished rabble-rouser for all feminist causes. Raised in Missouri, she earned a bachelors degree in education, masters degrees in English and history, and a doctorate in women’s history. She lived in Alaska from 1957-1993. She taught school for 18 years, was the Social Studies Coordinator for the Anchorage School District and co-owned the Alaska Women’s Bookstore. She and her colleagues established “The Learning Tree,” a consulting firm that created curriculum and trained teachers from Barrow to Ketchikan. She helped found the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus and the Alaska Women’s Resource Center. Many remember her for fermenting feminist causes in her living room under the aegis of “Sing Alongs” and potluck dinners.
Lucy is the recipient of many awards for advancing women’s rights across Alaska. One of the proudest aspects of her life was the opportunity to work with youngsters – both boys and girls – teaching them that women are equal and that girls can do whatever they aspire to do.
1920 – 2005
Achievement in: law
Best known for her contributions to the Alaska Judicial System, Nora Guinn, a Yupik Eskimo, was Alaska’s first woman and the first Native to serve as a district court judge. In territorial days, she dispensed local justice as a United States Commissioner, and after statehood, became Bethel’s first magistrate. As a judge she was the only non-attorney to be backed by the Alaska Bar for a judgeship. Sitting in her courtroom was an educational experience as she conducted court in Yupik and English so that everyone could understand and explained everything thoroughly. Nora Guinn helped Alaska’s legal system understand the concerns, needs and viewpoint of Alaska’s Native people.
Guinn was made a special master of the Superior Court so she could hear cases involving placement of children, and often produced results never thought of by social workers or attorneys. She had a special love for children and would often take a child who was having problems into her home.
1918 – 1996
Achievement in: law
Dorothy Awes Haaland moved to Alaska in 1945 and became one of the first women to be admitted to the Alaska Bar. In 1955, she was elected as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention, where she chaired the Committee on the Preamble and Bill of Rights. Two years later, she was elected to the last territorial legislature and then went to work for the new State of Alaska as an assistant attorney general for 16 years. She remained in the legal field as an Anchorage district attorney and finally served as the magistrate of Cordova. Dorothy was a long time member if the League of Women Voters because she believed that women should always be involved in public policy.
1905 – 2005
Achievement in: education, music, business, culture
Lorene Harrison came to Anchorage to teach music and home economics in 1928 and launched herself into Anchorages cultural activities. She organized the United Choir of all Faiths, which was the forerunner of the Anchorage Community Chorus, served as first president of the Anchorage Concert Association, was on the founding boards of the Anchorage Arts Council, Anchorage Civic Opera and Anchorage Little Theatre, and served as First Presbyterian Church Choir director for 29 years.
Throughout her life she appeared to have the philosophy “if Anchorage doesn’t have, create it yourself.” The main lobby in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts is named after her.
1867 – unknown
Achievement in: politics
Cornelia Templeton Jewett came to Alaska in 1909 and married gold prospector Robert Lee Hatcher (of Hatcher Pass fame). Cornelia campaigned for women’s rights and prepared a petition to be sent to Alaska’s first Territorial Legislature (formed in 1912 by the Organic Act of 1912) asking for voting rights for women. The Legislature enfranchised women in 1913. Cornelia was also a leader in the Temperance Movement. Her campaigns resulted in a dry Alaska from 1918 to 1934.
1891 – 1964
Achievements in: law, public service, education
Mildred Hermann was a lawyer, an articulate spokesperson on statehood for Alaska, a forceful delegate of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, a wife and mother, and a lifelong advocate for research and treatment of tuberculosis, which was so prevalent in Alaska. She was born in Indiana, taught school for nine years, and came to Juneau, Alaska, in 1919, where she began her study of the law with James Wickersham. She was admitted to the Alaska Bar in 1934 and was the first woman to practice law in Juneau. She was a defense attorney for poor clients.
From 1949-59, Mildred Hermann served as Secretary of the Alaska Statehood Commission, the official organization responsible for organizing statewide support for Alaska’s admittance into the Union. At the Constitutional Convention Mildred was elected the Temporary President on the first day of the convention and was chosen as the delegate to close the convention, in honor of her long service on behalf of statehood. Mildred was an imposing woman and was most comfortable with a rolling pin in her hand, which she kept on her desk to accentuate her points. The convention lasted 75 days and with the wave of her rolling pin, Mildred reminded her colleagues daily of the volume of work to be accomplished to meet the schedule. After the convention, she became a reporter for the Anchorage Times covering the state legislature and the new state government she had helped to launch.
Achievement in: law enforcement
Frances Howard worked for the Department of Public Safety as Clerk-Dispatcher in 1967. She was then given a special commission to administer drivers tests because no commissioned trooper was available. Problem was, she was still being paid a clerk’s salary. In 1969, Alaska ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, and friends encouraged Frances to apply for a position as an Alaska State Trooper. She was accepted and became the first female Alaska State Trooper and the first unrestricted female state officer in the United States. The newspapers reported the event, adding that the largest challenge for the state was coming up with a proper uniform for her.
Equality was not entirely won with her appointment and consequent pay raise. When she married a fellow trooper, John Elmore, she was forced to resign because of stringent nepotism rules in the department.
1919 – 2001
Achievement in: conservation; environmental activism
Celia lived an adventuresome, varied and inspiring life. She arrived in Fairbanks, January 1, 1947, after spending 27 days ferrying a plane from Seattle. In 1952, she co-founded and ran, with longtime friend Ginny Wood and her husband Morton, one of the first ecotourism lodges in the country, Camp Denali. She helped create the first statewide conservation organization, the Alaska Conservation Society (ACS), in 1960 in a (successful) effort to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Range. On the national stage, she served on the joint Federal State Land Use Planning Commission and, in 1977, became the first woman to head a national environmental movement, The Wilderness Society. Celia along with friend Ginny are credited as the creators of the conservation movement in Alaska.
Achievement in: Public Service
Born in Juneau, Katie Hurley has devoted her life to public service in Alaska. She started her career as the assistant to Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening for 12 years, and then served as the Chief Clerk to the Constitutional Convention, and then as the secretary of the Territorial Senate and the State Senate after statehood. Later she was elected to the State House of Representatives from Wasilla, where she has resided since 1960. Hurley was the first woman to win a statewide partisan election when she was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 1978. She has also served as the Executive Director of the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women, the Chair of the Alaska Commission on Human Rights, President of the State Board of Education for seven years, a member of the Alaska Judicial Council, and on the Matanuska Telephone Board for nine years. She shares her time and encyclopedic knowledge of public affairs in Alaska with students across the state.
Achievement in: environmental activism
Sarah James, as board chair and a spokesperson for the Gwich’in Steering Committee, has educated Alaskans, other Americans, Congress, and peoples from around the world about the Gwich’in Nation, the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the importance of protecting ” the Sacred Place where Life Begins” from oil exploration and drilling. The goal of the Gwich’in is to permanently protect the coastal plain calving and nursing grounds of the caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.
Raised in Alaska’s far north in a traditional lifestyle, she did not begin speaking English until she was about 13 years old. Living in the small community of Arctic Village, she has traveled widely, from Washington, D.C. to foreign countries, speaking out for the rights of indigenous peoples through grassroots activism. She has received many awards in recognition of her leadership.
1914 – 2007
Achievement in: aviation, music arts
Ruth Jefford was the first woman commercial air taxi pilot in Alaska, flying planes in the state for 60 years. Jefford became the first woman licensed to instruct students at Merrill Field. A noted violinist, she was a founding member of the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra as well as concertmaster for almost 30 years. A friend noted that the violin was sort of on an equal basis with the airplane. She loved to play and she loved to fly. Jefford was well known as a mentor to young women in aviation and music.
1907 – 1986
Achievement in: healer
“Worriness is a bad sickness, makes all people get sick.”
“All my life I wanted to let them know. We need a calm day, a happy day all the time.”
From urban hospitals to rural clinics, Alaskans knew Della Keats, an Inupiat healer, as one who possessed a special “power” for healing the sick. At an early age, Della Keats became interested in human anatomy and folk medicine. She healed many Alaskans through traditional knowledge, personal observations, and reflection. She loved to teach people her “inupaiq ways of wellness.”
1862 – 1950
Achievements in: politics, socialism, journalism
In 1909, Lena Morrow Lewis became the first woman to be elected to the Socialist Party’s National Executive Committee and served as its delegate to the International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen in 1910. She became an itinerant American Socialist Party leader and was in Alaska from 1912-1917 organizing socialists, advocating for women’s rights, preparing women to vote, and running for political office. She herself ran for Territorial Delegate on the Socialist Party ticket in 1916, making her the first woman to run for national office in Alaska. Leaving Alaska shortly after the election, she became one of the most active women socialists in the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century.
Achievements in: philanthropy and education
For almost twenty years, Wilda Marston was the single most unabashed advocate and influential library supporter in Anchorage, serving on the Anchorage Municipal Library Advisory Board from 1978-90. As the moving force behind the new Loussac Library, Wilda was honored by the community’s decision to name the library’s theatre the Wilda Marston Theater. Wilda also served on the federal Depository Library Council and the National Historic Preservation Committee. Wilda has been a critical factor in the growth of libraries in Anchorage and indeed all of Alaska. She provides a wonderful example of the difference one person can make in the life of a community.
1920 – 2006
Achievements in: government, social work, economic justice
Blanche McSmith was a legislator, social worker, mother, and tireless advocate for social and economic justice in Alaska. Born in Texas in 1920, Blanche Louise Preston graduated from Wiley College in 1941 and earned a masters degree in social work from the University of Southern California in 1944. She married William McSmith and they moved to Alaska in 1949. Blanche played a major role in organizing the Anchorage branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1951 and served as President in 1959, advocating for a comprehensive civil rights law. In that same year, Governor Bill Egan appointed Blanche McSmith to serve in the Alaska House of Representatives, and thus she became the first African American to serve in that body.
Blanche worked both in and outside the legislature to end housing and employment discrimination in Alaska. Her efforts culminated in the adoption of a fair housing ordinance by the Anchorage city council in 1967. She also served as the associate editor of The Alaska Spotlight, Alaska’s first newspaper for African Americans.
Achievement in: art
Rie Munoz has been painting Alaska’s peoples, their communities and their activities since she fell in love with Juneau on a summer vacation in June of 1951. She has traveled widely throughout the far-flung reaches of Alaska and, through her very colorful paintings, depicts the everyday work and play of Alaskans, particularly those in small communities. She also explores the legends of Alaska’s Native people in her work. In addition to working in watercolors and making prints, she has created tapestries and murals.
Her work is carried in many galleries throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, other states and Canada. She has won many awards and honors. In 1999, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities Degree from the University of Alaska Southeast. She received the Alaska State Council on the Arts 2004 Governors Award for Individual Artist. In 2007, she was named the Rasmuson Foundations Distinguished Artist with this citation: “… in recognition of her signature ability to capture Alaska’s people and day-to-day activities, as well as her dedication to documenting village life.”
Achievement in: politics
Lisa Murkowski is the first woman to represent Alaska in the US Senate. Appointed to the Senate in December 2002, she was then elected to a full six-year term in 2004. She serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Born in Ketchikan, Lisa earned a BA from Georgetown University and a law degree from Willamette University in 1985. She practiced law for 10 years, and then served 6 years in the Alaska State House of Representatives, where she was named House Majority Leader during the 2003-2004 sessions.
1916 – 2004
Achievement in: education, law, Eskimo rights advocacy
Sadie Neakok was considered the “mother” of the Inupiaq village of Barrow. Sadie Neakok was an optimist who was willing to stand up for what she believed. She was known as an educator, foster parent, subsistence rights advocate, and traditional seamstress. As Alaska’s first Native woman magistrate, Sadie Neakok walked a challenging path. She worked constantly to reconcile demands that often clashed. Sadie said that the best way to solve most of our problems is to be honest with other people, to care about them and to show love. The advice that she gave to women no matter where they lived was to get involved with their community and work to make it a better place.
When asked about what was the best part of her work, Sadie responded, “Gaining the respect of my people.”
1902 – 1994
Achievement in: politics
Katherine was a teacher and a bank teller before she served as one of the original Constitutional Convention Delegates. Katherine served as the first Regional Election Supervisor for the Southeast, the United States Collector of Customs from 1951-1953, and the Juneau Postmaster from 1964-1971.
Achievement in: politics
Sarah Palin was the first woman and the youngest person elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 when she was 42. She was also the first Alaska woman to serve as a candidate on a national ticket when she was selected as the Republican U.S. Vice Presidential running mate to Senator John McCain in 2008.
Prior to her election as governor, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council and two terms as the mayor/manager of Wasilla. Palin is also past chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
1911 – 1958
Achievement in: civil rights
An important role model for all women and men who want to do something about injustice, Tlingit leader Elizabeth Peratrovich worked tirelessly to bring equality to Alaska. She raised awareness, rallied support, and lobbied the legislature to pass Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945, the first such law in the nation. As Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Elizabeth provided the crucial testimony that brought about passage of the Anti-Discrimination bill.
When asked by the Senate, “Will the equal rights bill eliminate discrimination in Alaska?” Elizabeth answered: “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.” Her speech split the opposition and allowed the bill to pass.
1911 – 2012
Achievements in: philanthropy, military, community action
Mary Louise Milligan entered the United States Army with the first group of American women selected for the Women’s Army Corps. She retired 20 years later as a Colonel after serving the last six years as Director of the Women’s Army Corps. Mary Louise broke down barriers for women in the U.S. armed forces successfully pursuing a career previously unavailable to women at a time when it was not popular to do so. She was a consistent advocate for improving the opportunities for women in the Army and for people of color to receive equal treatment in pursuit of military careers and engaging in community life.
In 1961, she married widowed Elmer E. Rasmuson and moved to Alaska. She and Elmer founded the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, now the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. She has served on the Board of the Rasmuson Foundation since 1967 and has set a model for personal philanthropy that will impact the state forever.
1909 – 1997
Achievement in: aviation, science, politics
Irene Ryan was a woman of many firsts. She was a pilot, geological engineer, and politician. In June 1932, at age 22, Irene became the first woman to solo an airplane in the Territory of Alaska. She was the first woman geologist to graduate from New Mexico School of Mines. She put that degree to good use when she designed and constructed airfields during WWII, and then after the war, she helped design the Anchorage International Airport.
Irene served in the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives and, after statehood in 1959, in the State Senate. Her expertise in oil and mining was seen as very beneficial by the male-dominated legislature. Former attorney general John Havelock said, “It was really extraordinary that a woman could make her way in a man’s world, in a mans topic.” Irene explained, “I have found that the best way to be accepted on equal ground is just to go ahead and quietly do the job at hand.”
Achievement in: law, government and philanthropy
Grace Berg Schaible has been a major player in the shaping of this state and its institutions.
She started her law career in Fairbanks, becoming the first person admitted to practice in the newly minted Alaska court system. In 1987 she was appointed as the first (and to date, only) female Attorney General. She served, again as the first woman, as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Alaska Permanent Fund from 1995-97. In addition to being a graduate of the University of Alaska and member of its Board of Regents, she has been a major donor of money, land, buildings and art to the university system. Among her many awards, she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from UAF in 1991 and in 2000 the William A. Egan Outstanding Alaskan award from the Alaska Chamber of Commerce.
Achievement in: territorial politics
“Flying Nell Scott” was the first woman elected to the Alaska Territorial Legislature. Nell worked in Seattle before moving to Alaska, finally settling in Seldovia in 1934 when her husband was appointed a Deputy United States Marshall. Her campaign was famous for its lack of speeches; Nell flew around and spoke with people individually. Scott came to office with the landslide re-election of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, but left the legislature after one term.
1920 – 1999
Achievement in: land use planner, geologist, activist
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1920, Lidia Lippi met Fred Selkregg at the end of WWII. They married in 1945, and moved to Alaska in 1958. Dr. Selkregg worked with communities throughout the state as a planner. She wrote the Economic Development Administration Grant for the Port of Anchorage, fought to set aside land for Anchorages watershed, and educated the community about earthquake risk. She served on the Advisory Committee to the Carter White House Conference on Balanced National Growth and Economic Development, served on the Anchorage Assembly, and developed a graduate planning program at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
1762 – unknown
Achievements in: exploration
Natalya Shelikof, wife of Grigorii Ivanovich Shelikhof, was the first white woman to live in Alaska, arriving in 1784 to the island of Kodiak where she helped her husband set up the colony and generally establish the Russian presence. Many historians say she was a founder of the Russian American Company. A remarkable woman who bore eight children, she ably supported her husband in his business affairs and expanded them after his death. She was influential in establishing schools, developing agriculture and bringing the Russian Orthodox Church to Alaska. She taught the native women about manners and cleanliness and tried, but did not succeed, in abolishing the tradition of polygamy.
Achievement in: politics, public policy, and community service
Arliss Sturgulewski arrived in Alaska in 1952. She has served on many municipal and state boards and commissions, the Anchorage Assembly, and in the Alaska State Senate. She was the first woman to head a major party ticket when she was the Republican candidate for governor in 1986; she ran again in 1990. She has also served in numerous organizations, especially those dealing with public policy and educational issues.
1907 – 2001
Achievement in: politics
Dora Sweeney served in the final two Legislatures of the Territory of Alaska and was one of six female members of the Alaska Constitutional Convention in 1955 and 1956. She signed the Alaska Constitution in 1956, and subsequently served three House terms in the Alaska Legislature. After retiring from the legislature, she was made the first woman sergeant-at-arms in the House of Representatives. She served as state president of both the Alaska Business and Professional Women and the Easter Seal Society of Alaska.
Achievement in: justice, politics, education
Raised and educated in Wisconsin, where she earned her law degree, Fran Ulmer came to Alaska in 1973. She started her 35-year career in public service working for the Alaska Legislature and then for Governor Jay Hammond for 6 years. She served in elected office for 18 years, as the Mayor of Juneau and in the Alaska House of Representatives, and then eight years as the Lieutenant Governor. She was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2002. In 2003, she shifted her focus to higher education as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University and then served as the Director of the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research. She was appointed Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2007.She has mentored and inspired generations of young women to a life of public service, and with her husband, Bill Council, has raised two successful children to be life-long learners.
1907 – 1984
Achievement in: government
Ada B. Wien was elected to be a delegate from Fairbanks to the Constitutional Convention. She was one of six women to serve as delegates. She was appointed to three Convention committees: Preamble and Bill of Rights, serving as Vice Chair, Resources, and the Advisory Committee on Committees. On Day 40 of the Constitutional Convention, she responded to a (male) delegates objection that she was being prompted on how to vote, by stating: “I would just like to go on record as saying I do my own thinking…”
A housewife, secretary and businesswoman, she is remembered every year when the University of Alaska Fairbanks awards a student the Noel & Ada Wien Memorial Scholarship.
1922 – 2013
Achievement in: land/resource rights
Raised in New Mexico, Esther came to Alaska in 1963 with two babies and her husband Bill Wunnicke, an engineer with USGS. She had a law degree from George Washington University, where she had been the first woman to serve on the Law Review. She devoted the next 30 years to leading organizations that actively managed the land and resources of Alaska and advocated on behalf of Native land rights. In 1982, Governor Sheffield appointed Esther the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, where she served as the “land lady” of Alaskas 104 million acres of land.
After retiring from public employment, she initiated a citizen organization named “Alaska Common Ground,” whose purpose is to collect and disseminate information on Alaska public policy issues and to promote citizen understanding through forums and reports. Esther has mentored hundreds of women as they began their own careers in natural resource management in Alaska.
The order began in 1843 in Montreal, Canada.
Achievements in: medicine, hospitals, religion
After an invitation from the community of Nome to establish a hospital and provide medical care, four Sisters of Providence nurses traveled by horseback, train and boat from Montreal, Canada, and arrived in Nome, a city of 10,000 people, on June 10, 1902. They went straight to work fulfilling their mission, and then in 1910 moved on to Fairbanks where they built and operated a hospital. In 1939, the Sisters of Providence established a two story, 52-bed hospital in Anchorage. As Alaska’s largest city grew, this facility was replaced in 1962. Today, they continue to operate a number of hospitals, schools and orphanages throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada.