Meet some of the women making a mark on Alaska's history
March is national women's history month -- and many women have made their mark on Alaska's history.
Gail Phillips, Shirley Mae Springer Staten and Edna MacLean have or will be inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame -- a virtual space to immortalize their contributions to the community.
The three women have drastically different childhoods that have shaped their leadership later in life.
Phillips, for example, is from a deeply political family, dating back to the days when her grandfather was in the Alaska territorial legislature. In 1995, Phillips became Speaker of the Alaska House -- only the second women ever to do so. She held the office through 1998, and no other woman has been in the seat since.
"Unfortunately, with all the negative aspect of politics, very few women are really wanting to get into that line. And I'm very sorry about that because you do not have a good balance on understanding legislation or policies or whatever unless you can have viewpoints from both men and women," Phillips said.
Phillips became a leader through legislation.
For Springer Staten, music was a medium that put her in the spotlight.
"I was raised in raised in Georgia, where the community was divided by railroad tracks. Whites on one side and blacks on the other. And little did I know that that would define the work that I did world," Staten said.
Staten now directs the lullaby project in Anchorage -- a national program designed to help imprisoned mothers reconnect with their children through the simple act of recording a song their kids can replay on the other side of the bars.
"It's a lot of tears, a lot of forgiveness, lots of shame. And an opportunity for that mother to say to her child the most important words through the power of music, 'I love you; it's not your fault'," Staten explained. "Music softens us and connects us in ways that talking doesn't do it."
Language is what put MacLean's name on the cover, as the author of the only comprehensive Inupiaq dictionary in Alaska, a project to which she dedicated 15 years of her life.
"It was a reaction to earlier experiences in school," MacLean said. "As you probably know, the federal government had a policy towards Alaska Natives and American Indians of eradicating the languages and the cultures of the indigenous groups within America. We experienced that first hand in Barrow-- very strongly."
MacLean became determined to keep her language alive.
"I think it came from that reaction of resistance, of resisting what was me, in me, my language. And resisting the teachers' efforts to remove that from me," MacLean explained.
The three women each have a different path, but each path led them to the same hall of fame. Now, they're honoring those who came before and inspiring others to follow.
"I am basically standing on the shoulders of my grandmother who never received acknowledgment," Staten said.
"You have to have a family that's willing to help the next generations come along," Phillips added. "I think we’re very fortunate here in Alaska. I think the whole history have shared an equal, almost an equal role with men. Because we're so few people. And today there’s still so few people that maybe it’s a little easier today for a woman to be in a leadership position."
Last week, the Anchorage Assembly passed a resolution recognizing women's history month.
The Alaska Women's Hall of Fame will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in May.
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