Nancy Guptill, an active force in P.E.I. politics for almost 20 years and one of P.E.I.'s Famous Five, died Monday in Summerside.
Guptill served two terms on Summerside council, and as a councillor was approached to run provincially for the Liberal Party in 1987. She would continue to serve as an MLA in the Summerside area until 2000.
"I was saddened to learn of Nancy Guptill's passing yesterday," said a statement from P.E.I. Premier Dennis King. "I have always admired her deep sense of community, love of family and commitment to empowering Islanders, especially women, to become leaders."
Guptill served as minister of tourism and minister of labour with responsibility for status of women, but it was her appointment to Speaker in 1993 that cemented her place in Island history.
Guptill was not the first woman to be Speaker, but found herself as part of a group of five that remains unique to this day.
They were all women: Premier Catherine Callbeck, Lieutenant-Governor Marion Reid, Opposition Leader Pat Mella, Deputy Speaker Elizabeth Hubley, and Guptill. This was then, and remains, an unmatched concentration of political power for women in a single Canada province.
Callbeck recalls the dedication Guptill had to her work and her determination to create jobs for the people of Summerside.
"I hope that they remember how hard she worked as a politician and how fair she was as a Speaker," said Callbeck.
"She was a truly warm person and wanted to do everything she could for people."
Guptill was born in Halifax in 1941, and moved to P.E.I. in 1975. When she was considering her first run for council, she was told she didn't stand a chance because she was from away and she was a woman.
That taunt, she said, was the final factor in making up her mind. And the rest is P.E.I. political history.
Hubley said she and Guptill were happy with the number of women involved in politics on P.E.I. today.
"I think you have to understand that I don't think we as women want everybody — all women — to run the government. I mean this was the time the stars came together whatever when five of us landed the jobs that we did," she said.
"But I think what we would like to impress upon people is that the importance it is to have that voice of women, that perspective of women at the table.… And encourage them any way they can to make sure they're there."
Nancy's daughter Nancy Beth Guptill wrote on Facebook: "Mom was a bright light that most people naturally gravitated to. She was a fun, outgoing, authentic and loving person who made a change and a difference in the lives of others. Loved by so many people.
"Her passing, while painful, is a blessing because her quality of life in recent years has diminished. She is now at rest and at peace with my Father in Heaven."