THE ICON: Mary Doullut
THE LEGACY: In 1893, the rivers and bayous of South Louisiana were seen as a tough place to be, a dangerous place — a manly place. Somebody apparently forgot to tell Mary Doullut that. A wife and mother, Doullut would become the first woman to earn a pilot’s license for inland waterways in south Louisiana, steering her craft in a dress and, when waters got rough, with her son clinging to her skirt. She didn’t do it because she had to, necessarily; “it was just for fun,” she said some 57 years after earning her pilot’s license. Later, she and husband Milton — also a riverboat pilot — would build the iconic Doullut steamboat houses, two magnificently detailed riverfront edifices in the Holy Cross neighborhood that evoke the profile of old steamer packets. To this day, they continue to draw sightseers, standing as twin testaments to the woman who lived there — and who proved once and for all that there was plenty of room for women on Old Man River.
THE ARTIST: Gabriel Flores
THE INSPIRATION: “The lady is a pilot of ability but will only employ her talents for the pleasure of herself and others as the commander of the launch James D. Houston, which runs on Ship Island canal and Lake Borgne. … She can find her way in the dark along either stream, and neither her husband nor their friends know of any pilot to whom they would sooner intrust themselves.” — From an article about Mary Doullut published July 28, 1893, in The Daily Picayune and headlined “A Pretty Pilot”