Pioneering Women of Alaska

“For most of history, anonymous was a woman,” said Virginia Woolfe, an early 1900s American woman writer. This month is Women’s History Month, which allows for a great opportunity to honor women who have made a significant difference in the Last Frontier.

Utilizing the knowledge of the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame, an organization founded in 2008 when the Alaska Women’s Network (AWN) board of directors began discussing how it could use its website to honor Alaska women for Alaska’s 50th year of statehood celebration, Hattie Gardner (position) of Business and Professional Women, a local organization promoting women in business and Marva Watson Director of Diversity and Compliance at the University of Alaska Anchorage.


Katie John

During Katie John’s 97 years of life, she went from living a traditional Alaska Native village life to the more modern Western lifestyle of today. In 1984 Katie John, along with Doris Charles requested the Alaska State Board of Fisheries to permit former residents of Baltzulneta to subsistence fish. This is because 20 years earlier, the board had ended subsistence fishing.  The board rejected the request, which led to a long, complex legal battle that would be later known has the “Katie John case.” This case began in 1985 and revolved around subsistence rights for Alaska Natives.


Emily Morgan

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Emily Morgan was a registered nurse and a Red Cross public health nurse. She is credited with administering the serum that was brought to Nome via the famous Iditarod Serum Run for the diphtheria epidemic in 1925. Morgan is nicknamed the “Angel of the Yukon” for saving Alaska Natives from the “black death” during the small pox epidemic.

Gertrude M. Wolfe

Gertrude Wolfe worked to improve life for the people of Hoonah and for all Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Some of the ways she did this was by being a certified village health aide, a member of the Hooach School Board, an active member of her local and regional Native health corporations and a past president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.

Wilda G. (Burch) Hudson

After becoming an active member of the League of Women Voters, Wilda Hudson later served as the organization’s Anchorage president. In 1967 she was appointed to the Anchorage City Council, becoming the third women to serve on the council. She later became the first woman presiding officer of any Anchorage governmental body. In 1967 she was appointed to the council due to vacancy for a one-year term, but she was then elected to the same position in 1968 for a three-year term.


MaryJane (Evans) Fate

MaryJane (Evans) Fate was one of the original Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act lobbyists. She worked with others to convince the White House and Congress to give 40 million acres of land and $1 billion to Alaska Native peoples through the passage of the act in 1971. She also was one of the first Native women to attend college at the University of Fairbanks. She helped found the North American Indian Women’s Association and was its third national president. Appointed by Governor Hickel, she was the first Alaska Native to serve on the Alaska Judicial Council from 1981-1987.

Jewel Jones

For 32 years Jewel Jones has served the Anchorage municipal government. Serving six mayors with responsibilities included executive management of City of Anchorage Social Service Department and the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human service. After ending her government service, she opened her own consulting firm and spent several years providing business management consultation. She also worked as executive director of the Anchorage Community Land Trust in 2007. The ACLT is a community development organization that incest in grassroots, community-based projects, specifically focusing on revitalizing Mountain View.


Carolyn E. Jones

Carolyn Jones has a distinguished 25-year history working for Rotary International, starting with becoming the president of her Anchorage club to becoming the first woman in the world to be appointed as a trustee to the prestigious, worldwide Rotary Foundation. She has been recognized for her volunteer work with children in eastern Russian orphanages by both the Alaska State Legislature and the Tomsk Russian Duma. Jones graduated from Stanford in 1963 and later became the first women president of the Yale Law School Student Association. She also graduated from Yale on a full scholarship. In Alaska she was an attorney for the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights.

 Aliy Zirkle

Aliy Zirkle completed in the 2014 Iditarod, an annual long-distance sled dog race in early March from Anchorage to Nome. She has finished all 14 of her races this year and became the only musher to finish second in three consecutive races. In addition to winning second place this year, she has previously completed the Iditarod 12 other times.