Stories of Women’s Roles and Experiences in the

 Gouldsboro, Maine Working Waterfront Community

Navigating Change 2023 | College of the Atlantic

Over time, Maine’s dominant fisheries have shifted, reflecting the evolving demands and dynamics of the industry. The roles of women in the villages of Gouldsboro have adapted as a response. Their involvement contributes to all areas in the food system (pre-harvest, harvest, post-harvest), community involvement, and other duties they may take on to support their family that is primarily fishing dependent. Most of the residents are in one way, or another connected by kinship to the sea for means of livelihood.

The women of Gouldsboro humbly demonstrate what it means to contribute and adapt where action is needed.  Prospect Harbor’s, Stinson’s Sardine Cannery, the last of its kind in the US serves as a testament to their contributions to the local economy and town legacy. The factory may have shut its doors in 2010, but the experiences of the women it employed, and the future of the factory are relevant to conversations about changes in ecology, culture, and waterfront access.

The voices of women are the focus of this project to share perspectives that have been historically overlooked and underrepresented in documentation and policy related to fisheries management. Oral history interviews help address this current knowledge gap through open-ended questions focused on hearing narrators’ stories of environmental change and how these changes have influenced women’s engagement in the sector. The stories shared demonstrate the importance of being an active community member and how nurturing relationships on land and sea are vital to conserving the community’s cultural and environmental heritage. 


This collection is a part of the course Navigating Change- Places, People, Stories at College of the Atlantic. In this course, students set out to explore how coastal communities have navigated and are navigating changes in their communities and the ecology surrounding Frenchman Bay. As a part of the course, a group of five students spent five weeks learning about the perspectives of the past, present, and future of the Gouldsboro community by interviewing women who range in experience and relationship to the fishing and aquaculture sectors. These community members included active and retired fishermen, people involved in the history and future of the Stinson Sardine Cannery, local institutes, and interviews archived in NOAA voices.  The audio pieces are narrated based on the interviews conducted throughout the project. 


To the women interviewed and the Gouldsboro community, 

thank you for inviting us into your homes and allowing us to share your stories.

We welcome you to listen and enjoy


Bonnie Naumann and Lela Anderson

“Now, I’d like to think Mom would like me working at the school so… that’s not bad. Gives me what I need and I don’t smell like a fish.”

-Bonnie Naumann

Bonnie is the daughter of Lela Anderson, the fastest packer at the Stinson Sardine Factory. She shares her experience as a woman who lived her entire life in the community adjacent to the cannery but has never worked in it.

Additionally, excerpts from Lela Anderson’s past interviews, sourced from the NOAA oral archives, were used to create a narration that combines her perspective with her daughter’s. Lela tells the story of her time at the cannery and the impact of its permanent closure in the community. It’s an interwoven story between mother and daughter through time.



Morna Briggs

“You went to work seven o’clock in the morning, work till midnight, and you might work the night, all kinds of hours until all those fish was done.

Morna is a 100-year-old retired lobsterman, who learned the ropes growing up with her father and hauled traps until the age of 84.  She fished with her husband until his passing. Her contributions to the fishing industry extend to her time spent working at Stinston’s Sardine Factory. From her home’s view over Corea harbor, Morna looks out for the safe return of fellow community members and their boats. Her story is one of a remarkable amount of time spent on the water.



Jean Symonds

 “Change is inevitable, Growth is optional.”

Jean was the first female lobsterman to hold a license in the Corea Harbor. Since then, many women in the harbor have followed suit. The list of her contributions extends in many directions. In 1957, Jean joined the Army Nurse’s Corp and taught in the Special Forces program. She received a master’s degree in nursing from Boston University, a Doctoral degree from Vanderbilt in 1990, and taught Nursing and Women’s Studies at the University of Maine in Orono from 1984 to 1999. Her career as a fisherman reigned from 1972 to 2018.  Jean’s unique perspective tells the story of her love of the marine ecosystem and how she maintains her active role within it. 



Michelle Pinkham

“It really was a part of history, because it’s not something that’s done anymore, unfortunately. So it’s kind of a lost art.

Raised on the peninsula, Michelle offers a wealth of knowledge about the area. Throughout her life, she has dedicated her time to the hospitality field, but like many other women in the area, she worked at the Stinson Sardine Factory. Her audio piece explores her experience working in the factory, the kinships, and her hopes for the future of the waterfront facility.



Rebecca “Becky” O’Keefe

“I was again out of my comfort zone. But, sometimes when you believe in something, you just take a deep breath and dive in.”

Becky embodies the grit and tenacity needed to sustain a coastal community. Her connection to people and the land has inevitably made her an advocate for the environment and those who depend on it.  She is currently involved in ensuring that the future of the Stinson Sardine factory remains accessible to the local working waterfront community. Her audio piece explores her perspectives on making a living on the waterfront and what can be done to protect it.




This project is in support of the NOAA CAFA-funded project “Gendered dimensions of climate change impacts, adaptive capacity, and resilience in Maine’s Coastal Fisheries”. The research study is led by a team of investigators and includes the course instructors, Hillary Smith, Galen Koch, Todd Little-Seibold, Laurie Baker, and Camden Hunt. This research study is focused on collecting women’s underrepresented perspectives to ensure that future climate action policies in the state of Maine accurately reflect the needs and priorities of all owner-operated fishermen and aquaculturists regardless of gender. 

There are many stories left to be heard. The collection will remain open to members of the community who would like to offer feedback and or participate in an interview. If this interests you, please feel welcome to reach out to Jessica at

Project Team: Kristin Zunino, Asy Xaytouthor, Jessica Bonilla, Ludwin Moran Sosa, and Michelle Hanselowski  

Instructors: Galen Koch, Todd Little-Siebold, Laurie Baker, and Hillary Smith.