Women Lighthouse Keepers

Breaking the Barrier: Women Lighthouse Keepers and Other Female Employees of the U.S. Lighthouse Board/Service


One of the first non-clerical U.S. government jobs that were open to women were positions as lighthouse keepers, although others did serve in staff positions at the various district and headquarter offices.  Typically those appointed as keepers were actually the spouse of the assistant or head keeper; they assumed these professional duties to assist their spouse or took over when their husbands became ill and/or died.  Nevertheless, many of these intrepid widows, and women appointed in their own right, served their country for many years with distinction in a time when employment for women was extremely limited.  They were true trailblazers.

Candace and Mary Clifford deserve credit for researching and writing about these trailblazers and what follows here is based on their seminal book Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers (Cypress Communications, 2013; 3rd Edition). 

Name

Light Station / Office

Dates of service & other notes:

Mrs. Lillie Ahern

Redfish Bar, TX

1889-1892

Mrs. Margaret Anderson

Round Island, MS

1872-1881

Mrs. Sarah Atwood

Mayo's Beach, MA

1876-1891

Thelma Austin

Point Fermin, CA

1925-1941 

Margaret E. Bates

Cape Henlopen, DE

May 1838 she sent a letter requesting appointment to replace her deceased husband.

Mrs. Lucy J. Baxter

Sandy Neck, MA

1862-1867

Elizabeth S. Beattie

New Canal, LA

December 1846 letter from New Orleans Collector recommended appointment of Mrs. Thos. Beattie to replace her deceased husband.

Mary Eliza Bethel

Key West, FL

Appointed assistant keeper in September 1891; Wife of principal keeper; 

Miriam Brandt

District Office

Letters September 1882 and January 1883 for job exchange with Mrs. Ellen Ingle as writers.

Julia Toby Brawn

Bay City, MI

1873-1890; 

Mrs. Hannah Brayley

Ned' Point, MA

1846-1849

Mrs. Georgiana C. Brumfield

Turkey Point, MD

1895-1919

Amy Buddington

Stratford Point, CT

1848-1859 (1860?)

Abbie Burgess (Grant)

Matinicus Rock, ME & Whitehead, ME

Matinicus: Assistant, 1867-1875; Whitehead: Assistant, 1875-1890 

Mrs. Dora Burgess

South Pass East Jetty, LA

Appointed acting assistant keeper in May 1891; promoted to assistant in December 1882; Resigned in October 1895 because "The Lighthouse foundation is in dangerous condition."

Alice Butterworth

Pass Christian, MS

1877-1882

Mrs. Mary F. Campbell

New Canal, LA

Appointed keeper in July 1869.

Annie M. Carlson

Granite Island, MI

1903-1905

Mary A. Carroll

Key West, FL

Appointed assistant keeper in October 1873; acting keeper May 1889.

Mrs. Christiansen

Mukilteo, WA

1925-1927

Mrs. Minnie Cochems

Sherwood Point, WI

1912-1928

Harriet E. Colfax 

Michigan City, IN

1861-1904 

Minnie E. Coteron

Bayou St. John, LA

1906-after 1912

Mrs. Sally Ann Crandall

Watch Hill, RI

1879-1888

Mrs. Rebecca L. Crouch

Turkey Point, MD

1873-1895

Miss Kate A. Crowley

Saugerties, NY

1873-1885

Mrs. Eliza A. Daboll

Morgan's Point, CT

1838 - ?; 

Mrs. Ann Davis

Point Lookout, MD

1830-1847 

Mrs. Sallie Dear

Pass Christian, MS

1874-1877; resigned

Amelia Deweese

Old Point Comfort, VA

1857-1861

Mrs. J. M. Donnelly

Amelia Island, FL

Assistant keeper; Removed in May, 1871.

Mrs. Ann Dudley

Sand Key, FL

1850-1854

Mrs. Mary Easton

Nantucket Cliff Beacons, MA

1852-1856

Mrs. Ann Edson

Turtle Island, OH

1869-1870

Mrs. Ella Edwards

Nansemond River, VA

1903-1906

Mrs. Martha A. Edwards

Point Lookout, MD

1853-1855; resigned in 1855

Pamela (Permelia?) Edwards

Point Lookout, MD

1855-1869

Flora Engle

Admiralty Head, Whitby Island, WA

(?); Resigned in September, 1868.

Jane Enos

St. Joseph's, MI

1876-1881

Mrs. Sarah J. Fine

Sand Key, FL

1904-1910

Mrs. Emily A. Fish

Point Pinos, CA

1893-1914 

Rebecca Flaherty

Sand Key, FL

1830-1837 

Mrs. Jessie Fisher

Head of Passes, LA

1864-1866

Mary A. Foster

Old Field Point, NY

1869

Josephine Freeman

Blackistone, MD

1876-1912

Mrs. Annie Gage

Bayou St. John, LA

1895-1906

Mrs. Anna Garraty

Presque Isle, MI

1903-1926

Mrs. Hannah Ham (Harn?)

Point Isabel, TX

1860-1861

Mrs. Harriet Gill

Pond Island, ME

1864-1867

Mrs. Sarah E. Lane Grand

Mission Point, MI

1906-1908

Mrs. Julia Ann Griswold

Eagle River, MI

1861-1865

Mrs. Donald E. Harrison

St. Mary's River, MI

1902-1904

Susan Harvey

Mahon, DE

Following the death of her husband Thos. E. Harvey, also a keeper; Letters praising her work and protesting her possible removal cover period from 1849-1859.  She was dismissed after a lengthy political struggle.  She had several small children to raise; 

Mrs. Mary R. Havens

Ship Island, MS

1855-1858

Mrs. Mary Ann Heath

Newport Harbor, RI

1868-1873

Miss Laura J. Hecox

Santa Cruz, CA

1883-1917 

Mary Henningson

Southwest Pass, LA

Appointed assistant keeper May 1864 (dated from 1 October 1863); Resigned in November 1869.

Mary J. Herwerth

Bluff Point, NY

1881-1903

Miss C. A. Hiern

Pass Christian, MS

1844-1861

Annie Bell Hobbs

Boon Island, ME

1876

Melissa Holden

Deer Island, ME

Temporary appointment during illness and death of her husband, Samuel F. Holden, months of February and March, 1874.  Permanent appointment April 1874; removed as incompetent in May 1876.

Mrs. Sarah Ann Hooper

Elm Tree, NY

1859-1867

Mrs. Eunice Howes

Sandy Neck, MA

1880-1886

Mrs. Thomas Hudson

Cow Island, NY

1853-1873

Betsy Morrow Humphrey

Monhegan Island, ME

1862-1880

Mrs. Merrill Hussey

Cape San Blas, FL

Appointed assistant keeper in April, 1869.

Mrs. Ellen Ingle

District Office, Baltimore, MD

Letters September 1882 and January 1883 for job exchange with Miriam Brandt as writers.

Mrs. Michaela Ingraham

Pensacola, FL

1840-1855

Helen Jackson

District Office,
Baltimore, MD

Clerk, appointed February 1891; promoted in January 1898; resigned in January 1902; (born in Baltimore, MD, 1849).

Miss S. D. Jackson

Lighthouse Board
Washington, DC

Clerk, dates?; services declared surplus in May 1885.

Mrs. Josephine Worth James

Third District Office
Staten Island, NY

Writer, date?; Dismissed due to absenteeism and neglect in July 1882.

Frances Johnson

White River, MI

1948-1954

Miss Louise M. Johnson

Charleston, SC

Appointed? (possibly 24 September 1888); released and replaced by Mills, L.S. (1890?).

Mrs. Sarah E. Johnson

Humboldt Bay, CA

1859-1863

Mrs. Ellen Lyons (Kilmartin)

Throggs Neck, NY

1876-1881

Martha C. Lawrence

Pensacola, FL

Assistant keeper September 1880; resigned November 1885 (Wife of Samuel C. Lawrence, Born 1851).

Mrs. Joanna Lawton

Schodack Channel, NY

1860-1873

Mrs. Charlotte A. Layton

Point Pinos, CA

1856-1860

Ida Lewis

Lime Rock, RI

1857-1911; (See Cliffords' Women Who Kept the Lights or click here for further information)

Mrs. Zoraida Lewis

Lime Rock, RI

1872-1879; (according to Cliffords Zoraida Lewis, Ida's mother, was appointed as the head keeper although Ida actually performed the duties during the 1872-79 period).

Sarah Levy

Fishing Battery Island, MD

1853-1855

Caroline Litigot (Autaya)

Mamajuda, MI

1874-1885

Miss Abby H. Long

Whitehead, ME

Daughter of Keeper Hezikiah Long; Whitehead: assistant, 1867-1875; Cape Elizabeth: Appointed but declined.

Mrs. Elizabeth Lusby

Turkey Point, MD

1844-1862

Barbara Mabrity

Key West, FL

1832-1862 

Eliza MacCashian [McCashin]

Passiac, NJ

Appointed acting assistant keeper in May 1881; Wife of former keeper.  Cliffords note 1903-1914; served as assistant keeper 1890-1894.

Mary J. Madden

Pensacola, FL

Appointed assistant keeper in June of 1869; resigned in July 1870.

Mrs. Mary Maher

Oyster Beds Beacon & Cockspur Island, GA

1853-1856

Martha Mariner

Cape Elizabeth, ME

Appointed assistant keeper in August 1867; resigned in July 1868.

Susan Mariner

Cape Elizabeth, ME

Appointed second assistant keeper in July 1868; resigned in 1869.

Jane E. Martin

Marblehead, MA

1860-1863

Kate Marvin

Squaw Point, MI

1897-1904

Ellen McCormick

Pensacola, FL

Appointed assistant keeper in October 1864; wife of Robert McCormick (she was born in Ireland in 1828)

Mrs. Francis McDonald

Morgan's Point, CT

1869-1871

Mrs. Hannah McDonald

Bergen Point, NJ

1873-1879

Elizabeth M. McDougal

Fifth Lighthouse District Office;
Baltimore, MD

Appointed as a writer in February 1893; resigned in June 1898.  (She was born in Washington, DC, in 1870, daughter of Charles J. and Kate Caffrey McDougal).

Kate C. McDougal

Mare Island, CA

Appointed keeper in December 1881; 1881-1916; 

Mrs. Joanna McGee

Marblehead, OH

1896-1903

Mrs. Annie McGuire

Pentwater, MI

Removed as keeper "for drunkenness and irregular habits" in February 1885; as quoted in Cliffords' Women Who Kept the Lights, p. 186.

Mrs. Catherine McGuire

Thunder Bay, MI

Appointed assistant keeper transferred to Marquette, MI in March 1882; Removed in July 1891 at request of husband, Patrick H. McGuire

Maggie McLeod

Lighthouse Board
Washington, DC

Clerk; died in April 1886.

Mrs. Flora McNeil

Bridgeport Breakwater, CT

1904-1920

Mrs. Margaret Mitchell

South Pass, LA

Appointed assistant keeper in February 1871; transferred to Southwest Pass as first assistant in June 1873; resigned in October 1875.

Mrs. William M. Monroe

Muskegon, MI

1862-1871

Catherine A. Moore

Black Rock Harbor, CT

1817-1878 

Leslie Moore

Fort Columbus Fog Bell, NY

1873-1882

Mrs. Caroline Morse

Santa Barbara, CA

1905-1911 

Clarinda Mott

Windmill Point, VT

1859-1862

Catherine A. Murdock

Rondout Creek, NY

1857-1907 

Angeline M. Nickerson

Chatham, MA

1848-1862 

Juliet Nichols

Angel Island, CA

1902-1914 

Maggie [Margaret] R. Norvell

Head of Passes; Port Pontchartrain, & New Canal Light Stations, (all in LA)

Appointed acting keeper in April 1891; husband, Louis V. Norvell, deceased; served at Head of Passes until 1896; Port Ponchartrain: 1896-1924; New Canal: 1924-1932; 

Ann Nuthall

Piney Point, MD

1850-1861 

Mrs. Jane O'Driscoll

New Canal, LA

Temporary appointment as keeper in June 1850; (vice H.H. O'Driscoll, husband, died in 1850); Resigned in March 1853.

Mrs. Esther O'Neill

Havre de Grace (Concord Point), MD

1863-1881

Mrs. Eva Pape

Sheboygan, WI

1869-1885

Mrs. Carmalite Philibert

Choctaw Point, AL

1842-1852

Mrs. Patty Potter

Stonington, CT

1842-1854 

Mrs. Anna M. Read

West Rigolets, LA

1898-1912

Mary (or Maria) J. Reynolds

Biloxi, MS

1854-1866 

Mrs. Caroline Riddle

New Canal, LA

1893-1924

Elizabeth Riley

North Point, MD

1834-1857 

Lydia Rogers

Aransas Pass, TX

1908-1921

Melinda Rose

Stony Point, NY

1904-1905 

Nancy Rose

Stony Point, NY

1857-1904 

Mrs. Mary H. Ryan

Calumet Harbor Entrance, IN

1873-1880 

Mrs. Ella G. Quick

Sand Island, WI

1903-1906

Fannie May Salter

Turkey Point, MD

1925-1947 

Mrs. H. Schmuck

North Point, MD

1864-1865 

Mrs. Schooner

Port Washington, WI

1860-1861

Jeanette S. Sharrer

Third Lighthouse District, NY

Appointed writer in July 1892; resigned in September 1892.

Mrs. Edward Shoemaker

Old Field Point, NY

1826-1827 

Catharine Shook

Pointe aux Barques, MI

1849-1851

Mrs. Leila P. Simmon

Brant Island, NC

Appointed acting assistant keeper in April 1895; resigned in June 1895.  Husband in LH Service at Currituck Beach, NC.  She was born in North Carolina, 1858.

Mrs. Eulalia Simpson

Hatteras Inlet, NC

Appointed acting assistant keeper in May 1894; full appointment in April 1896, resigned in December 1896 (wife of A. J. Simpson).

Mrs. Eliza Smith

New Baltimore Stake Light, NY

1864-1870

Mrs. Elizabeth Smith

Old Field Point, NY

1830-1856 

Lydia Smith

Manitou Island, MI

1855-1856

Mary L. Smith

Ediz Hook, WA & Point Fermin, CA

Appointed keeper (1870?); Edix Hook: 1870-1874; Point Fermin: 1874-1882; removed in May 1882; 

Georgia A. Stebbins

North Point, WI

1881-1899

Mrs. Laura Blach Stratton

Ediz Hook, WA

1874-1885

Margaret Stuart

Bombay Hook, DE

1850-1862 

Mrs. Caroline Stubbs

Palmer's Island, MA

1862-1873 (1874?)

Mrs. Mary J. Succow

Pass Manchac, LA

1873-1909

Charlotte Suter

Piney Point, MD

1840 (?);

Mrs. Emma D. Tabberrah

Cumberland Head, NY

1904-1919 

Mrs. Rosannah Tatham

Bodkin Island, MD

1845-1847

Mary L. Terry

Sand Point, MI

1868-1886 

Hannah Thomas

Gurnet Point, MA

1776-1786 

Mrs. Sarah Thomas

Cove Point, MD

1857-1859

Harriet Towner

Michigan City, IN

1844-1853

Mrs. Eliza Truckey

Marquette, MI

1862-1865

Helen C. Tune

Piney Point, MD

1877-1883 

Mrs. Harriet Valliant

Sharp's Island, MD

1851-1856

Mary H. Vreeland

Gibraltar Lighthouse, MI

Station closed and she was released as keeper in April 1879; named property custodian.

Mrs. Abbey Waite

Warwick Neck, RI

1832-1838

Kate Walker

Robbins Reef, NY

1894-1919 

Miss B. M. Watson

Mare Island, CA

Appointed first assistant keeper in December 1876.

Mrs. Theresa C. Watson

Mare Island, CA

1873-1881

Miss Martha V. Watts

Pensacola, FL

Appointed assistant keeper in August  1867; resigned in May 1869.

Mrs. Demairs Weeden

Beavertail, RI

1848-1857

Mary A. Wheatley

Eagle Harbor Range, MI

1898-1905

Ann Witbeck

Stuyvesant, NY

1853-1866

Mrs. Christian Witbeck

Stuyvesant, NY

1841-1853

Catharine Whittlesey

Lynde Point, CT

1840-1852 

Elizabeth (Van Riper) Williams

Beaver Island Harbor Point, MI &
Little Traverse, MI

Beaver Island Harbor Point: 1872-1884; Little Traverse: 1884-1913; 

Mrs. Julia F. Williams

Santa Barbara, CA

1865-1905 

Eliza A. Wilson

Piney Point, MD

1873-1877 

Ellen Wilson

Port Pontchartrain, LA

1882-1896 

Mrs. Rachel Wolcott

Marblehead, OH

1832-1834

Mrs. Mary E. Yewell

Sandy Point, MD

1860-1861

Maria Younghans

Biloxi, MS

1867-1918; resigned

Miranda Younghans

Biloxi, MS

1918-1929