There they are, some of the the most famous women the country has produced: Margaret Chase Smith. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Rosa Parks. Rachel Carson. Eleanor Roosevelt. Sojourner Truth.

March is Women’s History Month, and it shows around here. Portraits of some of the nation’s most impressive women are hanging outside the Governor’s Office, in the Appropriations Committee room, along the first-floor hallway, in the House Speaker’s Office and the Senate President’s Office.

The paintings are by Blue Hill artist Robert Shetterly. His unusual portraits are worthy of a trip to the State House. The portraits demand to be stared at. They’re different. The subject is often off-center. Sometimes bold, sometimes dark colors fill backgrounds. In the paintings are quotes by the subject. Reading something the person said while looking at her face brings the subject more to life than a typical portrait. Beside each painting is a bio sheet offering the woman’s story.

Every female in the State House seems to say the same thing when looking at the paintings: “They’re so inspiring. It’s nice to see portraits of women!” Until recently there were dozens of portraits of men on walls everywhere, but only one woman – Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith.

The exhibit will be on display through March. Every Maine girl should see them.

On Monday afternoon, a press conference will kick off Women’s History Month. Featured guests will be Gov. John Baldacci; Maine’s first women Senate president, Beverly Daggett; Senate Majority Leader Sharon Treat; organizer Rep. Marilyn Canavan; and artist Shetterly.

In addition to exhibits and speeches, there’ll be events throughout the month calling attention to contributions made by women. Highlights include performances by women’s singing groups; handing out bookmarks that say: “A woman’s place is in the House”; vignettes offered each day about “a first by a woman”; the posting of Margaret Chase Smith’s words from her famous “Declaration of Conscience” speech as a U.S. senator.

On March 18, the Maine Women’s Lobby will host “Girl’s Day at the State House.” On some days, House Speaker Patrick Colwell will turn over his gavel to the oldest female House member, the youngest female House member or the longest-serving female House member.

For more information go to: Click on Women’s History Month.

L-A delegation role model for girls

While there’s a long way to go before the number of women in office matches the 50-percent-plus percentage of the population, Maine does have a good number of females in office.

In the U.S. congressional delegation, two out of four – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins – are women.

In the state House of Representatives, 37 out of 151 are women; in the state Senate, 13 out of 35 are women. In legislative leadership, two of 10 are women. There’s room for improvement.

The makeup of the Lewiston-Auburn delegation, however, gives local girls something to brag about. It bucks the trend of men being in the majority. Out of 10 representatives and senators from Lewiston-Auburn, three are men and seven are women. William Walcott, Thomas Shields and Richard Mailhot are outnumbered by Lillian O’Brien, Margaret Craven, Elaine Makas, Sonya Sampson, Deborah Simpson, Neria Douglass and Peggy Rotundo.

Quote of the week

“The right to criticize, the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to protest, the right of independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood. … Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own.”

– Quote accompanying Margaret Chase Smith’s portrait at the State House.

Said June 1, 1950, in her “Declaration of Conscience” speech.

Bonnie Washuk is the Sun Journal State House reporter

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