March is Women’s History Month, the perfect time to learn about impactful women across the country. Whether it’s a treasured family member, a public figure to look up to, or a trailblazer from another point in history, this month is a great time to remind ourselves of their influence on society.
The first official National Women’s History Week started March 8, 1980. In 1987, Congress officially declared March as Women’s History Month. Today, it is celebrated around the world to honor feminist movements, diversity and historical accomplishments.
There are several anniversaries and milestones celebrated in March as well, including the passage of Title IX on March 1, 1972 and the first suffragette parade on March 3, 1913.
Be sure to check out our full series of historical female Granite Staters.
Former congresswoman, mayor, social worker
“During my two terms serving the good people of New Hampshire’s First District, I always worked for what I call the bottom 99% of Americans, and I never forgot that public office is a public trust.”
Carol Shea-Porter was the first New Hampshire woman ever elected to U.S. Congress. She was motivated to run following several service trips to help Hurricane Katrina recovery. She won her primary, even with no prior campaign experience. She beat out Republican challenger Jeb Bradley, and went on to serve a total of five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She also joined Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to represent the Granite State in the first-ever all-female congressional delegation.
A member of the Armed Services Committee during each of her tenures, Shea-Porter focused on legislation in support of veterans and military families, including in New Hampshire specifically. She opposed the Iraq War.
John Stark, the iconic Granite Stater who coined the state motto, is one of Shea-Porter’s ancestors. Her last term ended in 2017, when she shared that she would not be running for reelection and would be focusing on time with family.
Doll designer, entrepreneur
”It’s the ‘positive-ness’ of the face…It’s the smile. If you smile, someone else has got to smile back.”
Before she even turned 20, Annalee Thorndike had a passion for the art of doll-making. She would dye fabric, paint faces and create unique dolls with sewed-on clothes during the Great Depression. Eventually, Thorndike began a career out of this childhood hobby in a studio by Lake Winnipesaukee. During the 1950s and 60s, her dolls were mostly human and animals doing typical daily tasks and jobs. The 1970s focused on her iconic mice, but the 1980s were when the dolls became holiday-inspired and collectible.
Eventually, her company grew to be a widely-known, respected maker of collectible dolls. She began to put out collections inspired by holidays, jobs or another category altogether. “Behind the Smile,” a biography of Thorndike, is available for purchase if you want to learn more about one of New Hampshire’s first female entrepreneurs. It details her life, inspiration and ambitions throughout the progress of Annalee Dolls.
Thorndike passed away in 2002, but the Annalee Gift Shop is still open and located at 339 Daniel Webster Highway in Meredith.
First female N.H. state legislator, advocate
“…I don’t believe that women in general will do any harm in politics and I hope they will do a lot of good. Not believe in extremes, I feel that the man and woman form of government should make a very good blend. Some questions are naturally more vital to women than to men, and they will now have their fighting chance.”
The ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 gave all women the right to vote, and mobilized a movement of female politicians at the state level and beyond. Along with Dr. Mary L. Farnum, Jessie Doe was the first female state legislator in New Hampshire. She ran in 1920 as a Republican from Rollinsford, and was elected following a successful write-in campaign. In 1932, she was a delegate at the Republican National Convention in Chicago.
During her time with the N.H. State Legislature, she was part of the Public Health and Forestry committees, and advocated for women’s rights. She was also a trustee of the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Apparently quite quirky, Doe took time off from the State House to climb mountains, and then ran again and was reelected.
A residence hall at UNH is named after Doe, housing around 150 first-year students. It was dedicated in 1964 following her contributions to the university and women’s rights. Each year at Halloween, a haunted house fundraiser is hosted there.
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