Gladys Noon Spellman

(1918 - 1988)


Throughout her career as a public servant, Gladys Noon Spellman successfully spearheaded many efforts to effect social and political reform in all facets of life for her native Prince George's County, for the State of Maryland, and for the nation.

Before being elected to public office, Gladys Spellman was an educator in the Prince George's County public school system, president of the Prince George's County Council of PTA's, as well as chairwoman of the National Mental Health Study Center.  In 1962, she became the first woman elected to the Board of Commissioners of Prince George's County.  She later served as chairperson of that body, and as a member of the Prince George's County Council.  In 1972 she was awarded the highest honor that could be bestowed by county officials nationwide when she became the first woman elected president of the National Association of Counties.

In 1974, Spellman was elected to the U.S. Congress.  Representative Spellman was instrumental in sponsoring legislation to prevent discrimination based on marital status and prohibit discrimination against the handicapped and the elderly.  In 1980, Spellman suffered from a cardiac arrest which left her in a semi-comatose state and eventually led to her death in 1988.  But even while she lay in critical condition, Representative Spellman was elected for a forth term in Congress.  Her seat was not declared empty until 1981.

Throughout her years of service to the people of the State of Maryland, Gladys Spellman's efforts resulted in major reforms in the areas of county employment; housing policy; social, economic and human resource planning; consumer protection; sexual assault; women's pension rights; mandatory retirement; and discrimination against disabled persons.

Gladys Spellman was a trailblazer for the women of our state and nation.  In her active life, she was a visionary with the intelligence and talent to make ideas become reality. Many of the changes and advances that we take for granted today were the culmination of her dreams, and we, in Maryland, will enjoy the results of her vision and successes for years to come.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 1985.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001