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The late Gail H. Laughlin, J.D

Gail Laughlin

Gail H. Laughlin was born Abbie Hill Laughlin at Robbinston, Maine (near Calais) in 1868. She was one of nine children. In 1890 she attended Wellesley College after spending four years as a bookkeeper, earning only $4.00 per week to pay for her tuition to college. In 1896 Gail Laughlin entered Cornell School of Law from which she graduated in 1898. Ms. Laughlin was the first woman from Maine to practice law. She moved to California to begin her work as an attorney, followed by a judgeship in San Francisco.

Gail Laughlin became involved in the suffrage movement (women's right to vote) in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Minnesota. At that time, all travel was by stagecoach. As her involvement in women's issues grew, she traveled to St. Louis in 1919 to attend a women's organizational meeting which established the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs. Gail Laughlin was elected the first president of this new organization which still exists today as an International association with over 100,000 members in the United States.

In 1924 Gail Laughlin returned to Portland, Maine where she opened a law firm with her brother, Fred. She became the president of a local Portland chapter of the Business and Professional Women's Clubs in 1926, when the national convention was held there. She served three terms in the Maine House (1927-1934) and then three terms in the Maine Senate (1937-1941) and was the first woman with a law degree to be a member of the Maine legislature.

Gail Laughlin introduced and supported many pieces of legislation. Included were bills on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, establishing an overseer to control the use of drugs, early environmental laws regarding waste dumping into Maine rivers, and obtaining funding for a 22,666 acre national wildlife preserve in Washington County in the 1930's (now Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge). She was also instrumental in organizing the Department of Health.

In addition, she sponsored several bills which were instrumental in helping women. She sponsored An Act Relating to the Commitment of the Insane to stop husbands from committing their wives involuntarily. She supported a Registration Bureau for Nurses, an increase in the minimum wage and regulations, and sponsored a bill conferring equal rights of guardianship for father and mother. Perhaps one of the most important bills affecting girls involved changing the law permitting girls to marry at age 13 and boys at 15 to 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys.

Gail Laughlin died at the age of 84 in Portland, Maine.

1920 Photograph

Inducted March, 1991