Hailed as “the first woman of South Coast politics,” Margaret “MarDee” Xifaras (1945-2019), New Bedford lawyer and stalwart Democrat, was a driving force behind creation of the state’s first public law school, the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth.
Awashonks was a Native American woman who served as a chief of the Sakonnet (variations include Sogkonate, Seconit, Seaconnet, etc.) people in what is today Little Compton, Rhode Island before, during, and after King Philip’s War (1675-1676). The name Awashonks appears in official records more than the name of any other Native American woman.
A dedicated activist who advocated for New Bedford’s neighborhoods, Loretta Bourque (1920-2018) was referred to as “Mayor of the South End” for her special commitment to this section of the city. Through the Cove Street Neighborhood Association, Loretta led efforts against such problems as negligent absentee landlords, crime and drugs. Loretta’s influence was a key factor that led the New Bedford City Council to pass the city’s Problem Properties Ordinance.
From immigrant textile mill worker to Ivy League student to pioneering New Bedford educator, Laurinda C. Andrade (1899-1980) overcame barriers of tradition, poverty, language, and discrimination to establish the first high school Portuguese language department in the United States at New Bedford High School.