Historic women in Orcas Island business

Agnes Harrison (1860-1949)

by Meryl Roepke

Agnes Harrison joined the ranks of the first female physicians in the United States when she graduated from the University of Michigan in 1882. Dr. Harrison arrived in the San Juan’s with her husband, also a medical practitioner, in the late 1800s to provide care to early islanders.

She traveled by rowboat to attend to patients throughout the archipelago and is credited with delivering more than 2,000 babies in her decades-long medical career. In her later years, Dr. Harrison and her husband operated the Madrona Inn in Eastsound, all while continuing to care for their patients.

Jane Willis Barfoot-Hodde (1913-2013)

by Michelle Hassebrock

Jane Willis Barfoot-Hodde was born on December 8, 1913 on the historic Willis family farm in Olga. She was involved in many projects and organizations around Orcas – successfully advocating for the Olga Post Office after it closed briefly in the 70s; helping bolster the libraries and book sharing on Orcas; working at the Eastsound school for many years; membership and involvement with the Washington State Grange for over 80 years; running a popular second-hand store at Barfoot’s Blockhouse in Olga. Jane also was a longtime benefactor and volunteer for The Orcas Island Historical Museums, and in her life was unanimously voted to be the first recipient of the Historian of the Year Award. She fought to preserve Orcas Island’s history and rich character, and she generously donated the funds to allow the Museums to build the new entryway at the Eastsound Museum. Jane passed away in 2013, one month shy of 100 years old, and only two miles away from where she was born. The Orcas community benefitted greatly from her passion throughout her life, and her legacy lives on in her descendants today.

Joyce Burghardt (1922-2021)

by Terri Vinson, edited by Meryl Roepke

Joyce Burghardt (1922-2021), was visiting Orcas for a weekend getaway when the out-of-state plates on her and husband Galen’s car caught the eye of a local realtor. It was fate, and a flat tire, that led the Burghardt’s to stay. The couple were shown the Crescent Beach Resort, and while sitting on a beach log and digging her feet into the sand, she knew this was where they belonged.

As first-time resort owners and operators, Joyce was quick to take on many new responsibilities, such as managing reservations, cleaning cottages, and organizing salmon barbecues on the beach. The Burghardts ran the Crescent Beach Cottages for 9 years before returning to Seattle to care for Joyce’s parents.

During her years of living in Seattle, Joyce was hired as a secretary by the Seattle/King County chapter of the American Red Cross. Her hard work and dedication were clear to see, as she quickly rose to the position of Director of Youth Services and led Youth Leadership summer camps at the Western Washington University campus. Joyce later became the Director of Disaster Services. In 1976, Joyce led Red Cross assistance in Guam, due to the devastation caused by Typhoon Pamela, Galen joined her as a volunteer six months later. After leaving the Red Cross Joyce started her own consulting firm, K2B, where she helped local and state agencies in disaster planning.

Joyce also served as the Executive Director of the Puget Sound Girl’s Club, working towards teen pregnancy prevention, and offering swim courses to mothers and children. By 1981, Joyce and Galen had returned to Orcas and built a new home. Joyce loved music, and when the school’s music program was threatened, she and a few friends founded the Music Advocacy Group (MAG) to support music education for all students. In honor of Joyce and her 20 years of service to the program, the Joyce Burghardt Excellence in Music Fund was dedicated to helping students develop their musical talents.

Joyce was involved with the Eastsound Planning and Review Committee for 15 years, and many of her visions for Eastsound were realized. She was a founding member of the Orcas Island Community Foundation and served on the boards for the Orcas Center, Long House, Orcas Medical Center, Orcas Family Health, and vestry for Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Joyce Burghardt had a deep and dear love of community, and Orcas loved her quite dearly in return.

Submitted by Orcas Island Historical Museums.

Willis Barfoot-Hodde.

Willis Barfoot-Hodde.

Joyce Burghardt.

Joyce Burghardt.