Maine: An Encyclopedia

Timeline of Maine History 11: Political Change, Economic Challenges


Women Members of the Maine Legislature

Women Members of the Maine Legislature

During this period Maine state government was reorganized as a divided legislature faced an Independent governor, and the archaic Executive Council was abolished. Democrats outnumbered Republicans among registered voters for the first time; but unenrolled (“independent”) voters soon outnumbered either party. Women substantially increased their numbers in the Maine Legislature.  Term limits for legislators were enacted but left a loophole that allowed those limited in one house to run for a seat in the other.  Looming budget deficits resulted in state government closings in 1991 and 2002.

Paper companies owning large tracts of land were affected by land claims and ultimately entered a settlement with Maine’s Indian tribes. A court ruled the State owned cutting rights on 400,000 acres of public lands; paper companies settled with land exchanges. Major strikes disrupted paper production and resulted in lost jobs. Loring Air Force Base closed with the loss of thousands of jobs.


Independent Governor Longley assumes office.
Maine Senate is controlled by Republicans; Maine House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats
Annual sessions of the Legislature are established.
Legislatively elected Executive Council is abolished.


May Ross of Augusta is the first woman elected by the Maine Senate as its Secretary.
Benjamin Bubar, Jr. runs for president as the Prohibition Party candidate, winning 100,000 votes in 12 states; he runs again in 1980.
Last log drive on the Kennebec River, following legal challenges to the practice.
First female graduate of Maine Maritime Academy.


U.S. Justice Dept. backs Indian tribes in suit to regain aboriginal lands.
Legislature reserves Saturday before regular firearm deer season for residents only.
State bans billboards in attempt to make highways more scenic.


Democratic voter enrollment outnumbers that of Republicans for the first time since records were kept.
The town of Otisfield, long part of Cumberland County, seceded from that county to join Oxford County.
First trans-Atlantic balloon flight leaves Presque Isle and lands safely in France.
University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine opens in Biddeford.
Ricker College in Houlton closes.


Former Maine governor and U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie named Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter.


Land claims by Maine Indians settled by Act of Congress.
George Snell of the Jackson Laboratory and two other scientists share the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Constance Carlson named first women president of a University of Maine system campus.
Moose hunting reinstated after a 45 year closure.
Population: 1,124,660.


Major amendments made to Maine Indian Land Claims law.
Maine Supreme Court rules the State owns cutting rights on 400,000 acres of public lands. Paper companies settle out of court with land exchanges.
Interstate 95 completed with four lanes to Houlton.


More unenrolled (“independent”) voters than Democrats or Republicans.
Labor union membership peaks at 84,489.


Last hand-cranked telephone system in the United States ends service in Bryant Pond.


First AIDS case diagnosed in Maine.
Charles Howard, a young gay man, was killed in Bangor when he drowned after being thrown into the Kenduskeag Stream, sparking a nation-wide debate on discrimination against homosexuals.


The Beans of Egypt, Maine, a realistic account of life among Maine’s poor, becomes a publishing success for author Carolyn Chute.
The age for drinking alcohol is raised to 21.


Republicans, with John McKernan, win governor’s office for the first time in 20 years.
Three month strike against Boise Cascade paper company in Rumford; hundreds lose their jobs.


Nancy Randall Clark of Freeport, a Democrat, is the first woman to be elected by the Maine Senate as a Floor Leader, in this case Majority Floor Leader.
Worst flooding of the century from York to Penobscot counties.
Bitter paper workers strike against International Paper Company in Jay is the longest in Maine history, with many workers losing their jobs.


Democratic Senator George Mitchell elected U.S. Senate Majority Leader after being reelected in Maine by a record 81%.


Bangor Daily News celebrates 100 years of publication; Lewiston Evening Journal ceases publication.


Population: 1,227,928.
Referendum vote allows all stores to do business on Sundays.


Women hold more seats (62) in the Legislature than ever before or since.
State government shuts down for a week during legislative budget stalemate.


Ballot tampering scandal implicates aide to House Speaker John L. Martin.
Aroostook Band of the Micmacs gain federal recognition, requiring an amendment to the Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980.


Voters approve first in the nation initiative to limit legislators to four consecutive terms.
Sea urchins and aquaculture salmon tie for second place in fisheries value; urchins will be in crisis in four years.


Loring Air force Base at Limestone is closed with the loss of thousands of military and civilian jobs.
Speaker of the House John L. Martin resigns.
Angus S. King, Jr. elected as second modern independent governor.
State’s first Internet provider, Biddeford Internet, is founded.
Rabies spreads into the state as many animals are infected.


After many years of legislative debate voters, in a November referendum, approved “requiring all persons to use safety belts in motor vehicles?”
At the same election, voters approved a constitutional amendment “to give the Governor a line-item veto over expenditures of state funds,” thus strengthening the Governor’s influence over the budget process.


Mane has two women as U.S. Senators for the first time, and is the second state in history to have that distinction.


Maine Yankee nuclear power plant permanently shuts down, decommissioning planning begins.
First women to hold State offices include Elizabeth Mitchell as Speaker of the House, and Dale McCormick, elected by Legislature to serve as State Treasurer.
U.S. Senator William S. Cohen appointed Secretary of Defense.
Ocean fisheries threatened with collapse of species; new management techniques sought.


January ice storm cripples state with massive power outages; schools, businesses and government offices closed with millions of dollars in damages.
Guy Gannet newspaper company, long a Maine institution, is bought by the Seattle Times Company under the name Blethan Maine Newspapers.


Maine power companies sell generating facilities as required by new energy deregulation law.
A natural gas pipeline from Nova Scotia provides a new energy source.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for the first time in its history, orders the dismantling of a hydroelectric dam over the owner’s objections. The dam, on the Kennebec River in Augusta, was owned by Edwards Manufacturing Company.


After many years of legislative debate voters, in a November referendum, approved “requiring all persons to use safety belts in motor vehicles?”
Energy deregulation law takes effect.
Close election gives equal balance to Democrats and Republicans in Maine Senate. Agreement to share Senate presidency: a Democrat in 2001; a Republican in 2002.


State offices close in reaction to September 11th bombing of World Trade Center and Pentagon.


State government faces major budget deficits; most state agencies close on July 5th, employees “furloughed” without pay.
Green Independent gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Carter qualifies for “clean election” funds in a challenge to major parties.


Largest mass poisoning in U.S. history occurs in New Sweden.
Economy reels with the collapse of Great Northern Paper Company and a report noting the loss of 17,800 factory jobs over three years.
Census report and other sources show Maine has the fastest growing poverty rate in the United States.


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This entry was last modified: May 11, 2017 12:48 AM

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