On the surface, they have little in common: An unassuming entrepreneur in her late 50s, an accomplished 38-year-old photojournalist, and a trio of energetic teenagers. But these women do exhibit several shared traits. They are plucky and passionate, clever and unpretentious. They are Mainers. And all five will be honored next Thursday, May 23, at the Maine Women's Fund's annual Leadership Luncheon, which honors those who are making life better for women and girls in this state and beyond.
"Part of the work of philanthropy is to inspire people," says Sarah Ruef-Lindquist, MWF's chief executive officer. "When we have in our midst people who have accomplished things like [these women] and they're from right here in our backyard, that's inspiring. A lot of people don't recognize that they're connected here or the impact of their work beyond Maine."
STARTING SMALL Anne Taintor began her
crafting career at local fairs. Now she runs a
small empire, producing items with vintage
images and modern themes, as seen below.
Published in 1963, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique outlined a problem without a name, one that "lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning [that is, a longing] that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries . . . she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?'"
Since 1985, Lewiston native Anne Taintor has been turning up the volume on that very question, and variations of it, transforming once unspoken resentments into a source of modern humor and camaraderie.
Taintor's designs are known internationally — witty collages that pair vintage images of domestic tranquility (such as an apron- and lipstick-wearing woman smiling over a stove) with tongue-in-cheek, imagined internal monologues (Why, I'd be delighted to put my needs last again).
The clever juxtapositions festoon everything from flasks and coasters to iPhone cases and notecards (Anne Taintor knee socks are in the works). Next Thursday, the 59-year-old entrepreneur, who moved back to Maine two years ago after more than a decade in New Mexico, will accept the MWF's Tribute to Women in Industry award, which recognizes women who have triumphed as business owners or nonprofit leaders.
Sitting in her Stroudwater home, which she shares with her husband and two dogs and also houses her light-filled studio (where she stores hundreds of vintage magazine clippings, organized by subject — i.e., Cooking, Kids, Travel), Taintor admits that she's still surprised by her own success.
"I just think I was lucky," she says, tucking her legs beneath her on the couch. "It's still really amazing to me."
Shy and smiling, Taintor recalls that at first, it was "hard for me to wrap my head around selling things — that wasn't what my family did." They were office-bound professionals, she explains, whose unique vocabularies and erudite conversational style certainly influenced her way with words.