June 26, 2019
In the same year that Mattell introduced the Barbie Doll and only 35 percent of college students were female, two Westbrook Junior College (WJC) instructors made a pioneering step in the field of women’s literary studies. Grace A. Dow, chair and professor in the Department of English at WJC, and Dorothy M. Healy, a WJC teacher and administrator, founded the Maine Women Writers Collection (MWWC) in 1959 in order to celebrate and preserve the contributions to Maine culture and literature made by women writers. It was one of the first, if not the first, collections of its kind in the country.
On June 14, 2019, a packed crowd gathered in the Abplanalp Library on the Portland Campus to celebrate the MWWC’s 60th anniversary. The event showcased examples of the material in the collection through a short series of readings and included works by May Sarton, Estella Deering, Donna Loring, Ruth Moore, and an anonymous suffragist. Special guest reader Monica Wood, a bestselling Maine novelist and memoirist, shared an excerpt from an essay by Kate Douglas Wiggin about her childhood encounter with Charles Dickens.
In her opening remarks, the collection’s director, Jennifer Tuttle, Ph.D., Dorothy M. Healy Professor of Literature and Health, recognized the progressiveness and vision of the collection’s co-founders. “Before the resurgence of the Women’s Movement in the United States, before the advent of women’s studies, Dow and Healy saw that Maine women’s writing should be honored, preserved, and made available for study and enjoyment,” she said. “In short: they took women and their writing seriously.”