As the Portland Institute and Public Library, this site held the city’s first woman’s suffrage meeting. It was called by John Neal on May 5, 1870, to restore “woman to her ‘natural and inalienable rights.’” Maine women finally won the right to vote after the state legislature ratified the national suffrage amendment in November, 1919.
The first woman to be elected to Portland’s 11-member City Council was Florence Stevens, who served from 1923-1930. The largest number of women on the Council, whose members are paid a nominal salary, occurred in 1988 when five women served, but only one woman, Cheryl Leeman, served in 1996. The Council elected the mayor for over 80 years. It became a popularly elected office again in 2011. The first woman mayor was Helen Frost, elected in 1946 and 1951, followed by six other women, including Leeman; Pamela Plumb, a councilor for ten years; Linda Abromson, a councilor for twelve years; and Jill Duson, the first African-American to serve as Portland’s mayor. Abromson’s family honored her by donating funds to landscape City Hall plaza and install a plaque.