Pat Gardner, member of Whidbey Island Genealogy Searchers, holds her contribution to the club’s women’s history display at Oak Harbor Library. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Pat Gardner, member of Whidbey Island Genealogy Searchers, holds her contribution to the club’s women’s history display at Oak Harbor Library. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Library display recognizes accomplishments of local women

From Langley’s first mayor to Oak Harbor’s own Olympic medalist, the Whidbey Island Genealogy Searchers is aiming to elevate stories of local women who’ve made an impact.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the genealogy group created a display at the entrance of the Oak Harbor Library dedicated to some of the island’s most notable figures.

“There are a lot of women in our community who have made a difference, present and past,” said Pat Gardner, education chairwoman for the group.

In 1920, Langley’s first female mayor, Helen Coe, and an all-women town council took the reigns of the Village by the Sea. The South Whidbey town was troubled by animals roaming freely in the streets, trash pileups and rum runners from Canada.

Coe and her administration, which included Grace English, Emma Mondon, Clara Brown, Lillian Wylie and Maggie McLeod, led a massive clean-up effort. They are also credited with bringing the town its library.

The display also recognizes current Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who, in 2008, became the first woman elected to the board of commissioners.

Included with the information are artifacts, such as trophies loaned by Marti Malloy’s parents.

Malloy took bronze in judo, competing in the 57-kilogram division, at the 2012 Summer Olympics; the Oak Harbor High School graduate became the city’s first medalist.

“I’m impressed by our Olympic champion,” said Gardner, surveying the recently completed collection. “They’re all good.”

Another glass trophy on display belongs to current Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill. The trophy is for Outstanding Judge.

Pictures and snippets of information about current and former community members also include longtime Whidbey News-Times reporter, editor and community columnist Dorothy Neil.

In addition to nearly 60 years of writing for the newspaper and serving as the community’s unofficial historian, Neil also penned nearly a dozen books on the history of the area and was involved is a number of local organizations and efforts.

“She was kind of the face of Oak Harbor,” Gardner said.

The display will be at the library until March 17.

• Whidbey Island Genealogical Searchers meetings are held 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Heller Road Fire Station in Oak Harbor. More information can be found at

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