“Ladies of the Lights” Presentation by Michigan Maritime Expert Dianna Stampfler Showcases Female Keepers of Michigan’s Historic Beacons
“Ladies of the Lights” Presentation Showcases Female Keepers of Michigan’s Historic Beacons
Michigan lighthouse historian and author Dianna Stampfler has announced a series of presentations of her popular “Ladies of the Lights” in honor of Women’s History Month. This program, which includes readings from newspapers and autobiographies, as well as countless historic photos, sheds light on the dedicated women who served at lights around the state dating back as early as the 1830s.
These were women before their time, taking on the romantic yet dangerous and physically demanding job of tending to the lighthouses that protected the Great Lakes shoreline. Given this was also a government job, their involvement was even more unique. In all, nearly 50 women have been identified who excelled in this profession over the years.
One of the most notable was Elizabeth (Whitney) VanRiper Williams who took over the St. James Harbor Light on Beaver Island after her husband, Clement, died while attempting to rescue the crew of a ship sinking in the harbor. She later became the first keeper of the Little Traverse Lighthouse in Harbor Springs, retiring after a combined 44 years of service.
There is also Julia (Tobey) Braun Way who outlived two husband keepers at the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse in Bay City, and some say who still haunts the place today. Anastasia Truckey served as the interim keeper at the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in the 1860s while her husband, Nelson, was off serving in the Civil War. Mary Terry served 18 years before she died in a fire at the Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba in 1886 – her death still shrouded in mystery 137 years later.
Stampfler has been researching Great Lakes lighthouses for more than 25 years and is the author of Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses (2019) and Death and Lighthouses on the Great Lakes (2022) both from The History Press. She has penned countless articles and been interviewed extensively about the lighthouses and their keepers. She is also the president of Promote Michigan.
The March 2023 program schedule includes:
- Tuesday, March 14 (6-7:30pm)
Chesterfield Township Library
- Wednesday, March 15 (10am-Noon)
Saginaw Valley State University, University Center
OLLI Class (Registration required: $20 members/$40 non-members)
- Wednesday, March 15 (5-6:30pm)
Harbor Beach District Library
- Tuesday, March 21 (6-7:30pm)
Livonia Public Library ZOOM
- Wednesday, March 22 (6-7:30pm)
St. Clair County Library, Port Huron
- Thursday, March 23 (7-8:30pm)
Novi Public Library Zoom
Stampfler will be selling/signing copies of her books following each presentation.