Stories from fifty historic female lighthouse keepers
Michigan once led the country in the number of lighthouses, and they're still a central part of the mystique and colorful countryside of the state. What even the region's lighthouse enthusiasts might not know is the rich history of female lighthouse keepers in the area.
Fifty women served the sailing communities on Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior, as well as on the Detroit River, for more than 100 years. From Catherine Shook, who raised eight children while maintaining the Pointe Aux Barques light at the entrance to Saginaw Bay; to Eliza Truckey, who assumed responsibility for the lighthouse in Marquette while her husband fought for four years in the Civil War; to Elizabeth Whitney, whose combined service on Beaver Island and in Harbor Springs totaled forty-one years—the stories of Michigan's "ladies of the light" are inspiring.
This is no technical tome documenting the minutiae of Michigan's lighthouse specifications. Rather, it's a detailed, human portrait of the women who kept those lighthouses running, defying the gender expectations of their time.
"A great read about some great ladies, Pat Majher's Ladies of the Lights pays long overdue homage to an overlooked part of Great Lakes maritime history in which a select group of stalwart women beat the odds to succeed in a field historically reserved for men."
—Terry Pepper, Executive Director of Great Lakes Lighthouse Keeper's Association
Patricia Majher is Editor of Michigan History magazine, published by the Historical Society of Michigan. Prior, she was Assistant Director of the Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing, Michigan. In addition, she has been writing both advertising and editorial copy for almost thirty years and has been a frequent contributor to Michigan newspapers and magazines.
Cover image: Photographs of Elizabeth Van Riper Williams and the Beaver Island Harbor Lighthouse courtesy of the Beaver Island Historical Society.
Copyright © 2010, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.
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