May 30, 2024


There has been so much talk recently of cracks in glass ceilings, it’s a wonder we’re not all watching where we step for fear of treading on sharp shards. The glass ceiling, the symbolic barrier women have yet to fully break through, was a hot topic late this summer when Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Alaska governor (the state’s first female one – another crack) was the GOP’s first female vice-presidential nominee.

Previously, Sen. Hillary Clinton was hitting the ceiling as she strove to become the country’s first woman presidential nominee. The Democrats chose Barack Obama instead and she now is slated to run the State Department.

Although too much can be made of female firsts and their significance, Maine broke another hole in its glass ceiling this week when Janet Mills was chosen by the Legislature as the state’s next attorney general. She is the first woman to hold the post; she is the state’s 55th attorney general.

Also this week, Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell was elected president of the Senate. Having been Speaker of the House a decade earlier (the first woman to hold that post), she is the first woman in the country to serve as the leader of both state legislative chambers. Hannah Pingree was selected as Speaker of the House, marking the first time in Maine both top legislative leadership positions have been simultaneously held by women.

In Congress, Maine’s congressional delegation will be three-quarters female with 1st District Rep.-elect Chellie Pingree joining Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins; it is the only delegation in the country where the majority are women.

While these firsts are significant, they are appropriately part of the news coverage, not its focus.

“Thirty years ago, I tried a homicide case in Portland,” Ms. Mills recalled recently. “I was the only woman in the courtroom that whole week. The news article on the case was titled, ‘The Prosecutor Wore Pale Powder Blue.’

“Instead of discussing the evidence and the merits of the case, the article described my wardrobe in great detail. We laughed about that then and we laugh about it now. Times have changed.” They’ve changed because women like Ms. Mills, who was the first woman district attorney in the northeastern United States and the first woman to work in the criminal division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office, have forced them to change.

Soon, the glass ceiling won’t just be cracked, but gone for good.

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