Michigan and the Great Lakes

Ladies of the Lights

Michigan Women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service
Patricia Majher

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 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 lights" 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, Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association

Cover image: Photographs of Elizabeth Van Riper Williams and the Beaver Island Harbor Lighthouse courtesy of the Beaver Island Historical Society.

Patricia Majher is a former 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.

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Copyright © 2010, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen: Michigan Radio Interview | 03/29/21
Watch: Virtual Author Event Recording | 3/23/21

Read: Review MittenLit.com | 8/15/10

Read: Gift guide to books by Michigan authors | Mlive.com | 12/13/10

Read: Review AnnArbor.com | 12/21/10

Read: Review Yak's Corner | 3/24/11

Read: Review Traverse City Record-Eagle | 5/24/11

Read: Review | Mlive.com | 7/22/11

Media Kit

  • Photo 1 .jpg. Michigan's last Lady of the Light, Frances Wuori Johnson, was also the only one to serve during the Coast Guard era. Photo courtesy of Frances Marshall.
  • Photo 2 .jpg. After a long night of maintaining the Mission Point light, Sarah Lane would entertain visitors up to the tip of the peninsula—as many as a thousand per season. Photo courtesy of the Old Mission Peninsula Historical Society.
  • Photo 3 .jpg. When Julia Sheridan—assistant keeper at South Manitou Island—drowned in the icy waters of Lake Michigan, she left behind five children under the age of twelve. Photo courtesy of Jack Sheridan.
  • Photo 4 .jpg. Captured in a lighthearted moment of dress-up on Grassy Island, Edna Campbell was a strong and steady helpmate to her keeper-husband, John. Photo courtesy of Richard Campbell.
  • Photo 5 .jpg. Maebelle Mason—daughter of Mamajuda light keeper Orlo Mason—proudly sported the life-saving medals she earned on the Detroit River. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan/From the book History of the Great Lakes Volume II.
  • Photo 6 .jpg. Frances Wuori Johnson stumped the panel of television's "What's My Line?" in 1953 when they couldn't guess her unique profession. Photo courtesy of Frances Marshall.
  • Hi-Res Cover .jpg
  • Press Release .doc

Product Details

  • 136 pages.
  • 16 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02801-6

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