Date of Award

5-2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Carol N. Toner

Second Committee Member

Mazie Hough

Third Committee Member

Mary E. Beattie

Abstract

The subject of this thesis, Gail Laughlin, was among the first group of women elected to the Maine Legislature shortly after full suffrage was gained. She served six terms in the Legislature between 1927 and 1941, three in the Maine House of Representatives and three in the Senate. Laughlin was a leading political figure nationally and in Maine and an effective public servant who worked for equality in law for women. Laughlin was born in Robbinston, Maine, in 1868. She graduated from Portland High School in 1886, earned a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College in 1894, and a law degree from Cornell University's Law Department in 1898. Laughlin was licensed to practice law in Maine, Colorado, and California. She was a tireless crusader for women's rights. She was a lecturer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, a founder and first president of the Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, a leader in the National Woman's Party, and active in myriad local, state, and political and public service organizations. In this paper, I look at the specific bills that Laughlin sponsored to address the issue of gender equity for Maine women. I argue that Gail Laughlin was one of the most involved and effective lawmakers during her terms of service. She made major contributions to Maine law that improved the lives of women. She was informed, determined, confident, eloquent, and courageous in her legislative work. She is a role model today for women who want to enter the political sphere, whether by running for elected office or by serving in organizations, clubs, or in other capacities to further the public good. Gail Laughlin is someone Maine citizens need to know more about in order to take pride in her accomplishments and to understand her contributions to change Maine law. This paper addresses one specific aspect of her legislative work—that of gender equality—and serves as a platform for further study.

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