Jodi Picoult, Christa McAuliffe and Jeanne Shaheen among influential New Hampshire women
By Jane Murphy
August 14, 2020
Women of the Granite State have demonstrated a strength, courage and resolve both before and after they could legally vote, personifying Yankee independence and a rugged resilience.
Perhaps the challenge of merely surviving New Hampshire’s harsh winter weather steeled them with the skill and smarts needed for their family’s survival. Perhaps the personalities of the kind of women who chose to settle here already required an innate adventurousness and resolve. No matter its origins, these traits and the courage to break barriers have been handed down from one generation to the next through honorable examples and nurturing mentors.
In August, America will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, when women gained the legal right to vote. To mark this centennial, the USA TODAY Network is naming 10 American women from all 50 states and the District of Columbia who’ve made significant contributions to their respective states and to the country as Women of the Century.
The women under consideration as Women of the Century were expected to have a track record showing outstanding achievement in arts and literature, business, civil rights, education, entertainment, law, media, nonprofits and philanthropy, politics, science, medicine or sports. Other requirements included U.S. citizenship and having lived between 1920 and 2020, the century that the 19th Amendment has changed women’s lives.
Nominations came from a panel of women leaders as well as the public. Narrowing the nominees has been no easy task.
Picking just 10 people leaves out so many dynamic figures, so many compelling moments in history, amazing achievements and powerful accomplishments.
Some of the state’s most notable names didn’t quite make it into the list of 10, or else didn’t qualify. For example, Harriet Wilson, who was born in Milford, New Hampshire, was the first African American of any gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. Her name was on everyone’s list until we realized she died in 1900, before our time frame, thus disqualifying her.
Those who did make it into our final 10 come from various generations and careers, but they all share a record of extraordinary achievement.
Jeanne Shaheen is the senior U.S. senator from New Hampshire. Her firsts include being the first female U.S. Senator in New Hampshire’s history, New Hampshire’s first female governor, and the first woman elected as both a governor and a U.S. senator in American history.
A native of Missouri, she studied, lived and taught in many locations before moving to New Hampshire in 1973. Here she taught high school and owned a retail store before she began working on political campaigns. In 1990, she was elected to the state Senate. She first ran for governor in 1996 and won three two-year terms, serving until 2003.
In her first two runs, Shaheen took the no-new taxes pledge, a staple in New Hampshire politics. However, running for her third term in 2000 and staring down the school funding crisis, she refused to renew the pledge and won anyway. The victory made her the first New Hampshire governor in 38 years to win an election without making that pledge.
Now serving her second term as U.S. senator, she is a member of the Senate committees on Ethics; Appropriations; Armed Services; Foreign Relations; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Shaheen also serves on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.