Here’s to Montauk Women! In celebration of Women’s History Month, we recognize the hard work and contributions made by the women who have lived and worked in Montauk. A second installment of this history examining the legacy of Montaukett women will appear before the end of the month.
Montauk women drove ambulances during wartime, opened restaurants, got real estate licenses, ran motels, relentlessly pushed for quality education, and spearheaded a brand-new Library for Montauk. Countless women have put their stamp on businesses, schools, government, and the environment to shape the cultural landscape of our community.
This is a picture of Teresa Harrington Sarno, who worked at Gosman’s for 50 years. Her sister Mary Harrington married Robert Gosman of Amagansett; the couple eventually established Gosman’s, which became a Montauk institution. James Sarno was a boat captain who frequently took fishing parties out on the Shel-lew. This photograph was part of a collection of Shel-lew images donated to the Montauk Library by Teresa, who reverted to her maiden name Harrington after her husband died.
Comb the pages of the East Hampton Star for the last 100+ years and you will read the names and stories of women who stepped out, took risks, and pioneered new roles for their gender. An impressive number of women opened restaurants and motels in the 1940s and 50s, coinciding with the boom in Montauk tourism that fostered the resort industry.
Jeannette Bimson was granted a liquor license in 1949 to operate the Blue Marlin; on April 2, 1959, Mrs. Harry Wahlberg reported to the Star that she was in Montauk, preparing to open the Umbrella Inn for the season. And Audrey McMullan, proprietor of Aznac House, caught a 63-pound white marlin that was brought back to shore by Joe Miller’s boat and deposited on the Town Dock (EH Star, 8.29.1946). No doubt Audrey drove to the Dock, placed the fish in her truck, and then returned to Aznac House, where she served her guests cocktails.
Some people become synonymous with an epoch, or with a place or event. A person’s name can immediately evoke a different time, a former era, a specific slice of life. Teresa, a positive force of nature, died only a few weeks ago. An excellent obituary in the EH Star offers more details about her life. Other Montaukers whose obituaries are currently accessible on the Star’s Internet site also defined their times: Rose Rutkowski, John Behan, and Eugene Beckwith, just to name a few. We salute them all. Or, as the Harrington Women would say, “Slainte!”