Some of the coolest things happen spur-of-the-moment on a live radio talk show, like today, when a first-time caller asked if I remembered the waterfront's first woman lumper by the name of "Fish Mary?"

I drew a blank, but other listeners flashed back to the 1950s and 1960s when "Fish Mary" wasn't only the first woman, but the only woman lumper to carry a fishing boat's catch from the holds of the vessel to shore.

I was told by quite a few people who emailed me at that her name was Mary Stanley, a tough-as-nails woman who was rugged and practically indestructible. A Florida resident said she hadn't heard her name since the 1960s, when she worked on her father's boat, Cap 'n Bill, owned by Richard Lance.

I directed the listener to call the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center to see if Laura Orleans and her standout staff could be of assistance. At the time I made the recommendation, I was unaware that the Fishing Heritage Center recently had an interesting program about Fish Mary, during National Women's Month, that focused on the women who were, and are, an important part of the local commercial fishing industry.

I remember having a radio chat with Laura, who spotlighted the truth about women in commercial fishing, from those who are the wives of fishermen to the women who own and captain boats, process fish, make fishing gear and serve as some of the most persuasive advocates for the industry.

Please share any anecdotes and stories you may have about Fish Mary or any of the many iconic players of the New Bedford waterfront.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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