As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we want to celebrate the women presidents that the Green Mountain Club has had. Women have been a part of GMC almost from the beginning and there have been four women presidents throughout the years.
1969 – 1971
Shirley Strong was first introduced to GMC and the Long Trail as a child by her aunt, Janice Byington, but really got into hiking with the GMC herself after attending college at UVM. She loved doing trail work and attending the intersectionals, week-long summer get-togethers of the many GMC sections.
Shirley became GMC’s first women president in 1969 and had many important accomplishments throughout her two-year tenure: establishing the ranger-naturalist program on Vermont’s high peaks, reviving the caretaker program at shelters, starting a trail ethics program, starting an inventory of Long Trail landowners, and raising the profile of GMC as the steward of the Green Mountains and the Long Trail.
After being GMC president, Shirley continued her work protecting the environment through many other trail and conservation groups. Although she moved to the Washington DC area, she remained a GMC member until her death in 2005.
This information was taken from the Summer 2006 Long Trail News and a transcript of an oral history interview conducted by the Vermont Folklife Center.
2000 – 2003
Marty Lawthers met a GMC member for the first time in Georgia as she and her husband began their Appalachian Trail thru hike in 1986. They hiked with that member, Smith Edwards, for a month and learned much about the Long Trail and the Green Mountains. Marty and her family became GMC members themselves after moving to the Champlain Valley in 1993.
Although she had young children, Marty began her work with the Club through committee and board work, drawing from her prior experience with the Appalachian Trail Conference Board of Managers and her time as a trail maintainer and corridor monitor on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts. She was drawn toward land stewardship and focused much of her efforts there before becoming Club President from 2000 to 2003.
Marty’s history shows her deep commitment to volunteering. As she said in her first President’s message in the Long Trail News, “Looking out across the rippled waters of Stratton Pond, the windswept rocks on Jay Peak, or inhaling the rich balsam aroma on Laraway Mountain can only inspire you to give something back to this wonderful resource. Volunteers are our lifeblood.”
This information was taken from the Fall 2000 Long Trail News.
2009 – 2012
Marge Fish has been hiking and backpacking for most of her life and joined GMC in the 1970s because she was already hiking the trail and felt the responsibility to help pay for it. As an at-large member, she was also a shelter adopter, Long Trail End-to-End section hiker, Giffith Lake caretaker, and trail and shelter maintainer. She joined the Manchester section in the 1990s and helped with planning the new Bromley Shelter and trail relocation in that area.
Marge became GMC President in 2009. From her term, she is most proud of her involvement with the Lowell Wind Project and setting wind siting standards. She also is proud of changing the way Club Presidents and Vice Presidents interacted, keeping the VP more closely in the loop on significant issues and decision making.
Marge has been involved with GMC by sitting on multiple committees, helping the Manchester section hold GMC’s Annual Meeting three times, and even maintaining privies. She continues to lead hikes and is currently the Manchester Section’s President and a member of the Board of Directors.
This information was taken from the Fall 2009 Long Trail News and an interview with Marge.
2012 – 2015
Jean Haigh grew up in Rutland and started hiking early around the Pico/Killington area. She was an at-large member for years but really got involved with the GMC when the Northeast Kingdom was established in 2000.
During Jean’s tenure as GMC President from 2012 to 2015, the accomplishments she was most proud of were helping to hire the Club’s current Executive Director, Mike DeBonis, after an intensive search by the Executive Committee and full GMC Board, and her part in the completion of the Winooski River Footbridge, which she got to walk across for the first time on her last day as president.
Jean continues her work with GMC today as a member of seven committees, Chair of the Camps Committee, and Board representative for the NEK section. She hikes frequently and her favorite trails are the Unknown Pond Trail in Avery’s Gore in the Kingdom Heritage Lands and the Skylight Trail to Skyline Lodge.
This information was taken from an interview with Jean.