Statement by Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby:

We are relieved to see the Governor’s harmful TANF proposals defeated, but frustrated that the legislature wasted so much time in debating bills that were nothing more than an attempt to score political points on the backs of Maine people living in poverty – most of whom are women and children.

Instead of debating policy based on anecdotes and stereotypes, we call on our elected officials to focus on real solutions that create pathways out of poverty. Those solutions include jobs that pay, investing in Head Start and quality childcare for working parents, restoring property tax relief, increasing the state’s earned income tax credit, and perhaps most importantly, accepting federal funds to increase access to health care for nearly 70,000 Maine people.

It’s time for real leadership on the issues that matter to Maine women and their families. It’s time our elected officials stop scapegoating women who are struggling to support their families – and make no mistake, that’s what this debate was about. It’s time to do the hard work necessary to pass meaningful policies that improve both the lives of Maine people and our state’s economy.

The Maine Women’s Lobby advocates on behalf of Maine’s 678,000 women and girls; focusing on freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security.

To learn more about specific policy priorities, please direct inquiries to Eliza Townsend at 207.622.0851 x20,; or Kathy Kilrain del Rio at 207.229.0068 x25,


Last month the Maine Legislature voted in support of LD 1487 – the compromise bill to allow Maine to accept federal funds to provide health care coverage to nearly 70,000 Maine people.

Governor LePage promised to veto this bill. Today he did.

Now the bill goes back to the Maine Senate and House where two-thirds of the Senators and Representatives present will be needed to override his veto. If an override is successful, LD 1487 will become law and Mainers, who otherwise can’t afford it, will finally have health care coverage later this year!

Please call your Senator and Representative now – even if you have taken action on this issue before. You can leave a message 24 hours-a-day.

Not sure who your state legislators are? Click here to look them up.

Senators:  1-800-423-6900     

Representatives: 1-800-423-2900 

When you call, say:

- Your name,

- Town that you live in,

- Your legislator’s name, and

- A brief message. For example: “Please vote to override the Governor’s veto of LD 1487.  We need to accept the federal funds that will provide health care. Maine people will be healthier and our economy will be stronger.

Urge your legislators to vote to override the Governor’s veto. Urge them to vote so that more Maine people can have coverage who otherwise will not have access to health care. A vote to override the Governor’s veto will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into Maine to stimulate our economy, and maintain and create jobs.

Look your Maine legislators up by clicking here.

Senators:  1-800-423-6900     

Representatives: 1-800-423-2900            

Now is the time. Don’t let Gov. LePage’s veto be the last word on health care for nearly 70,000 Maine people!

Thank you for calling.  Please ask at least one more person to do the same.

Last month, we were thrilled to see Pat Ryan inducted into the Maine Women’s Patricia E. RyanHall of Fame. For more than three decades she served as Executive Director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, the state agency charged with enforcing Maine’s anti-discrimination laws.  Her leadership took the agency from fledgling status to an established, credible and effective force ensuring equal treatment for all under the law.

But Pat also received this honor in part due to her role as one of the founding mothers of the Maine Women’s Lobby. Today, she is a board member and serves as chair of our Legislative Committee. We are honored to work with her and to benefit from her years of experience. Her commitment to ensuring continued progress for women and equality for all is an inspiration.

As MWL Executive Director Eliza Townsend said in her introduction at the awards ceremony, “By helping to establish the advocacy organization that gives voice to Maine women as policy decisions are made and by devoting three decades to fighting discrimination, Pat has made an outstanding contribution to improving opportunities for all Maine women.”

Following are Pat’s remarks from the ceremony:


Remarks by Patricia E. Ryan

Maine Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

March 15, 2014

It is an honor, and I am humbled, to be here this evening to be inducted in to the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.  And, I am so pleased that the ceremony takes place at the University of Maine in Augusta where the Hall of Fame is permanently located – in the Bennett Katz library.  For it was Bennett Katz who started a discussion with me over 40 years ago that has led me to where I am standing today.


In 1973 the Maine Legislature was considering ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Bennett, then Senator Katz, wanted to know more about the ERA and asked a neighbor and friend if they knew someone he could talk to.  A small group of women had been getting together to discuss issues affecting women.  I was part of that group and Bennett’s friend had participated in several of the discussions. She asked me if I would talk to Senator Katz.  I went to the State House; we talked; he considered, and became a supporter of ratification of the ERA.  I became enthralled with the process on the 3rd floor of the State House and when the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated in a Senate vote later that year, I joined a meeting among women representing various women’s groups throughout the State and we formed a coalition to work on securing passage of the ERA.  I chaired the coalition, working with a diverse group of over 25 organizations.  At the same time, the Maine Women’s Political Caucus was formed to encourage more women to run for public office.  We were successful in what turned out to be a full time 6-month campaign and Maine became the 31st State to ratify the Amendment later that year. 


Good things happened from that experience for many women.  In the next year 51 women became legislative candidates, and 39 won primaries.  The number of women serving in the Legislature substantially increased from where it had been two years before.  And we saw what a strong, united effort could produce on the 3rd floor of the State House.


In the early 1970s things were much different than they are now.  There were few women in state government, or in the legislature, or in visible management roles in the private sector.  Women had only achieved legal protection from sex discrimination with passage of the Civil Rights Act not even 10 years before.  Sex discrimination was not originally included in the proposed federal civil rights legislation.  In a last ditch attempt to prevent passage of the bill, opponents to it added sex as a protected class, with race, religion, age, and national origin in an attempt to assure its defeat.  They were wrong, the Civil Rights Act was passed, and discrimination in workplace because of sex became illegal. 


That did not happen in Maine right away, however.  When the state was debating enacting a similar anti-discrimination law, which would become the Maine Human Rights Act sex was intentionally excluded and was only added two years after the Human Rights Act became effective.



But by then issues relating to women were getting attention.  Some of us were working on workplace, housing and access to public accommodation issues; others, reproductive freedom; others, electing women to public office; others, domestic violence.  It was work on a domestic violence bill that caused the next step to occur.   A group formed to support a bill that provided funding to begin a domestic violence program.  There was bi-partisan support, and the bill passed both houses and went to the Appropriations table.  As most of you know, bills that carry fiscal notes are the last decided – and often in the middle of the night.  When we left the legislature on the last day, and had been assured that the bill would be among those funded, we were dismayed to find when it was all over that it had not. 


Madeline Kunin, former Governor of Vermont, recently addressed the Women’s Economic Summit in Augusta, a conference sponsored by the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center.  She said “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”  There was no one at the table that night during deliberations by the Appropriations Committee – and we indeed on the table. 


We vowed, following that vote, that we would never again be in the position of not being at the table.  A small group founded the Maine Women’s Lobby, an organization set up to address issues involving Maine women and girls, and we hired our first lobbyist.  The Lobby continues to flourish today, and employs a full time lobbyist and policy director, who is always at the Legislature and at the table.


In the 1970s and 80s there was press coverage for almost everything that was proposed, or debated, or decided that had to do with sex discrimination.  Sex discrimination complaints became the largest number of complaints filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission, and every decision seemed a “breakthrough”.    We had gone from a society in which inequality had been the norm, and not prohibited, to one in which equality was ensured, but needed to be fought for.  And so we began the litany of litigation – so that women could be police officers, or firefighters, or prison guards, and later lawyers, senior managers, and division heads.  Month after month, year after year, the spotlight shown on the firsts  — those women brave enough to bring rejection forward and challenge what had always been the norm.


And then we moved on.  Addressing pregnancy as a form of sex discrimination arose early, when women who were pregnant and terminated from their jobs, or forced to take unpaid leaves, only because of their pregnancy brought complaints to state and federal enforcement agencies.  Unlawful discrimination was regularly found, but the courts regularly ruled that pregnancy was not a form of sex discrimination, applying the logic that since only women could get pregnant, there could be no different treatment between men and women, and therefore no sex discrimination.  After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court rulings, both Congress and State legislatures moved quickly to amend federal and state civil rights laws to include prohibitions against discrimination because of pregnancy.


Then, in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s sexual harassment became the focus of enormously large numbers of complaints filed and continued the attention and focus of the media.  It took a long time to begin to change the workplace culture that had allowed sexual harassment to continue as long as it did. 


After the mid-1990s, the newness of sex discrimination issues had disappeared, and the attention of the press faded.  Complaints continued to be filed, issues continued to be raised, guidance continued to be issued, but there had developed a growing recognition of the worth and value of women in the workplace overall, and complaints had grown smaller.  Employers recognized the case law that had been established, and increasingly either insured their workplaces operated without discrimination, or when confronted with it, resolved the issue raised.


So, then, many ask are we done?  Have we done enough?  We have done a lot, but we have not done enough and we are not done.  Is it harder now to feel the impact change than it was 30 or 40 years ago.  Perhaps.  It’s harder to have that spotlight on every advance.  The train seems to have slowed down – there is not the image of the rolling train gathering momentum with lots of people involved.  But the issues remain – some of them the same as they were those decades ago, some evolving from the early issues, and some new issues.   Economic security for women, reproductive rights, discrimination, still need to be worked for.  We need to make sure the advances we have made do not disappear, as in the case of reproductive rights; we need to make sure that the advances we have made in the area of workplace, or educational institution, or public accommodation discrimination continue to move forward and continue to gain strength from glass ceilings being shattered with a loud roar, rather than a shard at a time, and we need to be aware of new issues that need our attention such as the disturbing numbers and tragedies of human trafficking.


We need to work to encourage women not to become complacent but to join us at the table.  We’ve seen how important that is — let’s all make sure we’re there.


Thank you.


Congratulations, Pat, for a much deserved honor.

Read Pat’s biography in the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame:

Learn more about the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame and past honorees:

The calendar says spring is finally here, but we haven’t had much time to notice with so much going on in the state house and beyond. The legislative session is nearing its end, we’ve been watching the action at the Supreme Court, planning for two great fall events is underway, and we’re working to address the presence of toxic phthalates in the products we use every day. Read on to learn more about what we’ve been up to this month.


Pat Ryan, one of the founding mothers of the Maine Women’s Lobby, was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame earlier this month. She was honored for her decades of dedication to progress for women. In addition to her role with the Maine Women’s Lobby, Pat also worked for equality as the Executive Director of the Maine Human Rights Commission. Here’s an excerpt from the speech she gave at the ceremony:

…the issues remain – some of them the same as they were those decades ago, some evolving from the early issues, and some new issues. Economic security for women, reproductive rights, discrimination, still need to be worked for. We need to make sure the advances we have made do not disappear, as in the case of reproductive rights; we need to make sure that the advances we have made in the area of workplace, or educational institution, or public accommodation discrimination continue to move forward and continue to gain strength from glass ceilings being shattered with a loud roar, rather than a shard at a time, and we need to be aware of new issues that need our attention such as the disturbing numbers and tragedies of human trafficking.

We need to work to encourage women not to become complacent but to join us at the table.  We’ve seen how important that is — let’s all make sure we’re there.”

Congratulations, Pat! This honor is much deserved.

Maine Women’s Lobby Gala

The Voice of Maine Women – Loud and Clear


Saturday, September 27, 2014
The Portland Club, Portland, ME
Cocktail reception, dinner/awards ceremony, and dancing!

Join us as we shine a spotlight on the power of Maine women – our voices, our actions, our leadership.

Sponsorship and Advertising opportunities available. To volunteer, contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 or

Gubernatorial Candidates Forum
Thursday, October 9, 2014

Be sure to mark your calendar for this important event where you will hear from the candidates who want to be Maine’s next governor on where they stand on the issues affecting women’s economic security.

We’ll share more details soon.


The 126th Legislative Session will be coming to a close in April. We’ll be sharing our full summary of the session later this year. For now, here are updates on some of the bills we worked on in March.

LD 1656An Act to Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, passed and was signed into law this month. This law will support victim safety and privacy.

LD 1730An Act to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking, recognizes that many trafficking victims are forced into engaging in illegal acts and provides victims with legal recourse if they are charged with illegal acts as the result of being trafficked. This bill came out of committee with unanimous support and had preliminary votes in both the House and Senate.

LD 1247, the Maine Women’s Health Initiative, ensures that women with low incomes have access to essential preventive health services such as cancer screenings, birth control, Pap tests, annual exams, and more. Not only is this good for women’s health, it is estimated to save Maine $2 million in its first three years. This bill had strong support in both the House and Senate. We expect further votes this week.

We are pleased with the outcome of the work session on the Governor’s bills that would limit access and use of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits for women and children living in poverty. (LD 1815LD 1820LD 1822LD 1842) They are likely to come up for House and Senate votes soon.

LD 1835 received a majority Ought Not to Pass report from the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee. This bill from the Governor would weaken labor unions with a so-called “Right to Work” provision and would also raid the fund for the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, which mostly serves low-income women who are trying to overcome barriers to access higher education.

In the coming days, the Appropriations Committee will be making decisions about the budget. There is still time to contact members of the Committee to urge them to fund Head Start and the Child Care Development Fund. These vital programs for early childhood is the best way to set children up for success in school and are proven to increase economic security for their families, too!

See a list of the members of the Appropriations Committee here:

Leave a message for Representatives or Senators 24 hours a day by calling:
Representatives: 1-800-423-2900
Senators:  1-800-423-6900

For over a year, we’ve shared with you the importance of accepting federal funds to expand health care coverage for nearly 70,000 Maine people. The compromise bill about which we asked you to take action earlier this month, LD 1487, passed in both the House and Senate, but did not have veto-proof majorities. It now sits on the Governor’s desk – stay tuned.


In December, 25 Maine people volunteered to participate in a study to test for the presence of phthalates in their bodies. The results were released this month in a report by the Alliance for a Clean and Health Maine,Hormones Disrupted: Toxic Phthalates in Maine People. The results are concerning. We found that the bodies of all 25 Mainers were polluted with phthalates. Eight of those individuals had levels in the top 5% of phthalate exposure nationally and another four had exposure levels in the top 10% nationally.

One of those tested was MWL board member Paige Holmes. Even though Paige, who is the mother of two sons – Owen (age 2) and Mason (age 6), tries to avoid using products that might have phthalates, she had the highest overall level of phthalates of the entire group. Phthalates are used to soften vinyl plastics and are found in a variety of every day products, including shower curtains, rain coats & boots, kids’ backpacks & lunch boxes, as well as in the “fragrance” found in many personal care products, cosmetics, and lotions.

Many scientific studies have linked phthalates to serious health issues such as birth defects of male sex organs, learning & behavior problems, and asthma & allergies. Pregnant women and young children are especially vulnerable to phthalate exposure. But today parents and pregnant women can’t get the information they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

Maine kids need us to take action. That’s why Mainers across the state are signing a citizen-led petition to initiate rule-making before the Maine DEP on the reporting of dangerous phthalates in consumer products. Want to help? There’s still time to collect signatures in your town. Contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 or to find out how you can help or to sign a petition in your area.

Read Hormones Disrupted online. 


On March 25th, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two important cases that affect women’s health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act: Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. At the heart of these cases is the requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that insurance plans provide all Americans with access to preventive care without out-of-pocket costs – including access to common forms of birth control.

Two private for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties have brought the suits because their owners say they have religious objections to some forms of birth control. If the Supreme Court agrees with these businesses, it will be a significant reinterpretation of federal law. To learn more about these cases, check out the resources at the Alliance for Justice, and follow the hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness on social media. Learn more about why courts matter to us all at, and follow the hashtag #courtsmatter on your favorite social media sites.


If you’ve been following our updates, you know how important raising the minimum wage is for Maine women. A recent report by the National Women’s Law Center found that six in ten minimum wage workers in Maine are women. President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 would give 69,000 Maine women a raise.

Just last week, Connecticut’s Gov. Malloy signed a law that makes his the first state in the nation to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. Mayor Mike Brennan has also suggested raising Portland’s minimum wage as part of his commitment to addressing income inequality in the city. MWL Executive Director Eliza Townsend is part of an advisory group convened by Mayor Brennan to study a minimum wage increase and make a recommendation to the city council.


We’ve been in the halls of the Maine State House for the past 35 years because of the financial support of our members. We stand up and speak out for a future where women and girls can live lives free from violence and free from discrimination, where we all have access to health care, including reproductive health care, and where we all have economic security throughout our lives.

Your membership gift of $35, $60, $100, or whatever fits your budget, makes it possible for us to fulfill our mission. You can make your membership gift online or by calling Molly at 207.622.0851 x22.

Thank you for your support. Together we are making a real difference for Maine’s 678,000 women and girls.


Subscribe to the MWL Action Alert system to get our latest news and updates!

It may be a short month, but a lot of big doings have been going on here at the Maine Women’s Lobby & with our sister organization, the Maine Women’s Policy Center. Here’s a look back at some of February’s highlights…

Discrimination Based on Religious Beliefs Defeated in Maine

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right protected by the Bill of Rights and Maine Constitution. LD 1428 would have gone beyond those protections to allow people to use their personal religious beliefs to be exempt from important laws that protect us all. This could have led to discrimination, public safety concerns, and an increase in lawsuits clogging our court system. This month the Maine Senate voted to reject LD 1428 with a vote of 19-16 and the Maine House did the same with a vote of 89-52. We’ve been working to defeat this bill since it was first introduced last year and were glad that the majority of Maine legislators recognized the dangers of this legislation and voted against it.

Many of you reached out to your legislators as this bill made its way through the legislature. Thank you!
Expanding Access to Health Care

We continue to join with the majority of Maine people who support accepting federal funds to expand access to health care for nearly 70,000 Maine people. We’ve written a lot about this important effort before. (You can read some of that here.) There is still a lot to do to move forward legislation that makes expanding access to health care a reality. If you would like to help, we have lots you can do! Contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 or email to volunteer in the coming weeks.

The National Women’s Law Center released a new report illustrating the importance of expanding Medicaid for low-income women. Mind the Gap: Women in Dire Need of Health Insurancefound a dramatic difference in the use of preventative services between low-income women who would benefit from Medicaid expansion compared to low-income women who already have access to health care coverage. Read more at
Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a horrible crime that devastates the lives of its victims – 85% of whom are women. Fear of violence, fear of criminal prosecution, and shame cause many victims of trafficking to stay in the shadows. That is why we testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of LD 1730, An Act to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough). Our justice system must have every opportunity to assist a victim in rebuilding her life. We’ll keep you informed about the progress of this bill as it moves through the legislature.

Increasing Momentum for Earned Paid Sick Days

The latest victory for those fighting for fair workplace policies happened in NYC this week. Last June, the New York City Council passed the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. A few days ago, the City Council voted 45-6 to expand that legislation to include businesses with five or more workers (the previous law only applied to businesses with 15 or more workers) and to include manufacturing firms. As Dr. Flavio Casoy, Executive Vice President for the Committee of Interns/SEIU Healthcare said in a statement: “Germs and viruses cannot discriminate between job sector or the size of the business, only attacking the immune system of workers of a particular industry or after first verifying there are more than 20 employees in the business.”



At this time of year when many of us are still fighting the flu, it’s important to remember that 40 million Americans don’t have access to earned paid sick days. When they get sick, those workers have to choose between getting well or getting paid. For those families already struggling to make ends meet, an illness can mean the loss of wages that pushes them over the brink into poverty. And too many workers risk getting fired if they stay home because they’re sick or they have to care for a sick child. Not only is this a basic economic security issue – it’s a serious public health concern. This is especially true when you consider that more than three out of every four food service & hotel workers don’t have a single earned paid sick day. When they get sick, they either have to lose needed pay or spread their germs to the rest of us.
Read more about the need for earned paid sick days and the growing effort to pass vital legislation across the country in this Fortune article posted today:
Have you had to choose between working sick and not getting paid because you couldn’t earn paid sick days? Have you ever faced being fired because you were too sick to work? Share your story by calling Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 or


Inspiration from the 18th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House

One of our favorite days of the year is Girls’ Day at the State House. It’s fantastic to spend the day with 100 eighth grade girls from across Maine as they learn about the importance of public policy in their lives, how state government works, and how they can make a difference. On February 25th, girls from towns as far away as Van Buren, Greenville, & Princeton came together with girls from as nearby as Farmingdale & Augusta to rock the Maine House and Senate. The girls participated in activities such as a mock public hearing, mock press conference, scavenger hunt, and floor debate. Here’s some of what they had to say about the day:

“I learned how to talk about what you believe in.” –Eliza, Yarmouth Girls Day floor debate

“I know that I want to become part of the State House and nothing is in my way.” –Lindsay, Dixfield

“You should never let anyone stop you from speaking out and following your dreams.” –Rebecca, Waterville

“I learned to be strong – follow your passion.” –Ellie, Cherryfield

“Girls too can make a difference and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.” -Safa, Augusta

“What struck me most was that any group of girls can bond anytime, anywhere.” –Maira, Penobscot

We couldn’t do this amazing event each year without the support of many dedicated volunteers, the helpful staff at the Cross Office Building & State House, and the legislators who share their leadership experiences. Thank you all! We are also extremely grateful to the sponsors who make this day possible with their generous financial support. This year we thank the following sponsors:

Time Warner Cable
Virginia Hodgkins Somers Foundation
Edward H. Daveis Benevolent Fund
of the Maine Community Foundation
Healey & Associates

Machias Savings Bank

Maine Education Association

 Mitchell Tardy
ACLU of Maine

Coastal Studies for Girls

Lee Auto Malls
 Thank You for Making Girls Day Possible
Stay Connected

Thank you for your continued support! Don’t forget to like our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter & Pinterest. And please consider becoming a member of the Maine Women’s Lobby. Together we are making a difference in the lives of Maine women & girls.

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