Patricia E. Ryan

Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan has been working for Maine women and girls since she became involved with passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1973, shortly after moving to Maine.   She served as statewide coordinator of the Maine Coalition for the ERA, a group of 25 organizations throughout the state who worked together to make Maine the 17th state to ratify the constitutional amendment in 1974.  The Coalition believed that the Equal Rights Amendment was a matter of simple justice, and ratification of it answered a simple question: Should women and men be equal under the law? The answer to that question continued to form the basis for Pat’s work over the next 40 years.

In 1975 Pat was appointed Chairwoman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women, where she worked for women and on women’s issues over the next 4 years. During that time she was elected as International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee Chair, and organized Maine’s participation in, and election of delegates to, the IWY Conference in Mexico. She was also appointed as Chair of the Governor’s Positive Action Committee, a group formed to advance issues impacting women and minorities. The first “Talent Bank” comprising names and resumes of women interested in serving on State boards and commissions was developed under her leadership to encourage greater inclusion of women by appointing officials.

During this time, sensing a need to bring perspective of women to public policy discussions and decisions in Maine, Pat, along with 9 others, became a founder of the Maine Women’s Lobby, a statewide organization dedicated to advancing the interests of women and girls. She served on the first Board, and the organization accumulated enough funding from 2000 individuals to hire its first lobbyist in time for the beginning of the 1979 legislative session. The Lobby continues as an important, thriving force today.

Pat was appointed as Executive Director of the Maine Human Rights Commission in 1979, a position she held for the next 32 years, shaping policy and enhancing the law protecting women, minorities, and others from discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and access to public accommodations. Under her leadership, the law was amended to include pregnancy as a form of sex discrimination; families with children were protected from housing discrimination; sexual harassment was defined and strongly enforced; girls were protected from discrimination in education, and sexual orientation discrimination was finally made illegal.

Pat Ryan has been a part of securing protections for women and girls, minorities, and others who needed laws, interpretations, guidance, and enforcement to level the playing fields, and she is grateful for the opportunity to help make a difference. Whether opening doors for women to serve as police officers, prison guards, and in other non-traditional fields; or ensuring that families with children could not be denied housing solely because there were children in the family; or that people with disabilities had to be reasonably accommodated to do a job, or live in a dwelling, access a building, or ride a bus; or that girls could play on sports teams for which their skills qualified them, and not be excluded from sports solely because of their sex, while enjoying comparable training facilities and tournament venues; or that students who were transgender had a right to use bathroom facilities for the sex they identified with, were all issues formed and shaped by Pat.

Following retirement in 2011, Pat has rejoined the Board of the Maine Women’s Lobby, where she continues to work on issues that affect women and girls in Maine. In her capacity as a mediator, she serves on the panel of mediators of the Maine Human Rights Commission, and enjoys continuing work in this area. She is married to Charlie Priest who has supported her work, sharing her values and her passions. They have two daughters, both of whom are remarkable young women, and of whom they are tremendously proud.

Inducted 2014

Laurie Gagnon Lachance

Laurie LachanceFirst Female President of Thomas College,
First Female President of the Maine Development Foundation, 
and First Female Maine State Economist

There is a reason why Laurie Lachance’s three career changes have landed her at the top of the fields of higher education, human development, and economics in her beloved State of Maine. Laurie has a profound understanding of the role that leveraging individual potential plays in the development of an economy. When it comes to human capital, Laurie believes that it’s at the heart of everything that we do and everything that we can achieve. That belief, along with the action steps that she has delivered over her entire career, have profoundly improved the aspirations of women across the State of Maine and beyond.

In her position as State Economist, Laurie emphasized the role that human capital plays in value-added economic development. As the leader of two great Maine institutions, she has maintained a laser-like focus on unlocking the innovation that resides within us all. Her move to higher education matched her rhetoric of two decades prior – that higher education is a key ingredient that promotes economic development.

Laurie Lachance was born and raised in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. A product of the humble beginnings that are part and parcel of a rural Maine upbringing, Laurie sought the best education that Maine had to offer. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, her Master’s degree from Thomas College, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Laurie’s career began as an economist for Central Maine Power. As State Economist, she served an unprecedented three Maine governors: a Republican, an Independent, and a Democrat. During her eleven year tenure as State Economist she served as the chair of the Maine State Revenue Forecasting Commission, restoring public trust in the forecasting process. Her advocacy of promoting lower energy costs through restructuring of the market is one of many shining examples of her influence.

Later in her career, Laurie turned her attention to human potential. In a letter of support to the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame Committee, Cheryl Miller of the Maine Development Foundation expressed what it was like to operate under the leadership of President Lachance in a work environment that was at times made up of all women. In Miller’s words, “she creates a culture of kindness and honesty...we all became more than we thought we ever could be, both professionally and as an organization. For those who know her, she is consistently one who inspires, empowers and affirms all those she touches. ”Her tenure at Thomas College has been characterized by growth and change. The College has flourished with new buildings, programs and playing fields along with major gains in student population. Thomas College is a business and liberal arts educational institution located in central Maine whose mission is to prepare students “for success in their personal and professional lives, and for leadership and service in their communities.”

As U.S. Senator and former Maine Governor Angus King said of Laurie in her nomination letter, “To each opportunity she brings the same abundant enthusiasm and unflagging optimism in the belief that positive thinking can overcome obstinate obstacles and turn the most hostile skeptics into ardent promoters of a new idea.” Senator King went on to add: “I guarantee that we haven’t yet realized all the great things that Laurie will introduce and make happen.”

Inducted 2014

Lyn Mikel Brown

Lyn Mikel BrownFor more than twenty-five years Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D.  has dedicated her life to changing the cultural environment for girls and young women in Maine.  As a founding member of the Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development, an AAUW Scholar in Residence, a member of the APA Presidential Task Force of Adolescent Girls, a consultant to the Ms. Foundation’s National Girls’ Initiative, her work has been instrumental to creating widespread and enduring change for Maine girls and women in the areas of programming and policy.

Dr. Brown’s acclaimed work on girls’ development has consistently broken new ground and challenged old perceptions.  She is the author of five books, five curriculums, and numerous articles.  Her books include, Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development (with Dr. Carol Gilligan), which sparked an international debate about the lives of girls and redefined our understanding of women’s development, and Girlfighting:  Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls, which explores the way our culture nurtures and reinforces competition and general meanness among girls.  Her research focuses on the relational lives of girls, their expression of anger and resistance, and how cultural definitions of femininity and popular media impact girls’ sense of themselves, their desires, and their agency.

But what sets Dr. Brown apart is more than just research, because embedded in her approach to her work is a dedication to translating theory into practice. While she’s an academic by training, she’s an activist through and through. Much of her activism is done through the organization she co-founded more than twelve years ago, Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW). HGHW is a non-profit founded on her research and dedicated to empowering girls with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and a platform to drive social change.

At Hardy Girls, Dr. Brown develops strength-based programs and materials that scaffold girls’ leadership and social change work.  Working with the Girls Advisory Board at Hardy Girls and her students at Colby, for example, she founded Powered by Girl, an online media literacy and activism site dedicated to providing a space for girls and young women to make their voices heard on sexism in the media through blogging, art, and social networking.

As a professor at Colby College, Dr. Brown brings both her research and practice into the classroom and her classroom into the community.  Every student she teaches works with school- or community-based youth groups and the curriculum she developed with her Colby students and with Dr. Mary Madden, From Adversaries to Allies, has been used with over 100 girls coalition groups across the state, as well as with girls groups in 41 states across the country, giving both her students and the girls they work with opportunities to develop their leadership and voice.

Throughout her career, Dr. Brown has collaborated with community leaders to encourage them to include girls’ voices.  She has worked with school guidance counselors to incorporate strength-based methods and her work with the State Board of Education and the Governor’s Subcommittee on Youth Safety brings a gendered lens and the voices of lesbian, bi, and transgendered girls to the tables where policies are made.  She helped to revive and now co-facilitates the Waterville High School Gay, Straight, Trans Alliance, and helped to initiate and now sits on the Executive Committee of the Waterville Inclusive Community Project.

Because she believes girls have the capacity to positively impact the culture they grow up in, Dr. Brown has worked to develop a national platform for girls’ voices.  In 2010, with her friend, Dr. Deborah Tolman, she co-founded SPARK Movement, a growing coalition of girls, activists, researchers, and partner organizations united in their determination to challenge the sexualization of girls and women in the media and work collectively to demand girls’ rights to embodiment  and healthy sexuality.

Dr. Brown has had a deep and widespread impact on the lives of women and girls throughout Maine. Her research, teaching, advising, and activism have been credited with changing lives and changing the way people understand and work with girls around the country. The key to bettering women’s lives is a strong foundation of empowerment and support in girls’ lives. Dr. Brown’s lifelong work has ensured that this is the case for Maine girls, and thus for Maine women.

2013 Photograph
Inducted 2013

Mary R. Cathcart

Mary R. CathcartMary R. Cathcart of Orono is a former advocate for battered women, a Maine State Representative and State Senator, and currently a Senior Policy Associate with the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. In 2009, she co-founded Maine NEW Leadership, a six-day, intensive, nonpartisan institute held annually at the University of Maine and designed to educate, engage, and empower the next generation of women leaders for Maine.

Mary has worked tirelessly in various capacities over the past thirty years to advance the cause of women in Maine, to improve their lives, and to bring enduring change. She was nominated for this honor by the Penobscot Valley Branch of AAUW, where she has been a member since the 1980’s and serves on the Leadership Team.

Mary Cathcart’s association with women’s concerns began shortly after she arrived in Maine as a young wife and mother of two young children in the 1970’s.  She enrolled in hotline training at Spruce Run, a new organization at the time, and the third oldest domestic violence shelter in the country. Mary worked with others in the statewide domestic violence coalition to seek funding for shelters and pass legislation to protect women and their children from abuse.

After several years as a hotline volunteer and steering committee member, Mary was hired as community education coordinator for Spruce Run; she trained volunteers for public speaking and hotline service, worked with the media to publicize the facts about violence against women, and engaged with local law enforcement and the district attorney on better training for police and placing an advocate for battered women in the DA’s office.  Because of that work, Mary was appointed to the Maine Commission for Women. Believing that the Commission should reach out to women beyond Augusta, she was instrumental in founding the Eastern Regional Commission for Women, which was responsible for re-establishing a rape crisis center for the Bangor region. 

In 1988, Mary was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where she sponsored legislation to strengthen Maine’s Protection from Abuse Act. In the 1990s, she was appointed by former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell to the United States Commission on Child and Family Welfare, and was elected by her peers to chair that body, which held public hearings around the country and made important recommendations on parental rights and responsibilities in the best interest of children.

In both the Maine House and Maine Senate, Mary continued to advocate for social justice, particularly for women and children.  She sponsored legislation to require a judge to consider a history of domestic abuse between the parents when determining custody and visitation arrangements, and also brought forward legislation concerning breastfeeding. 

Elected to the Maine Senate in 1996, Mary Cathcart quickly became known as a staunch supporter of higher education. Determined to convince the State to invest in research and development, she sponsored legislation that resulted in the creation of Maine’s first Joint Select Committee on Research and Development, which she co-chaired for 2 years.  Her efforts led to a successful R&D bond and ongoing funding to support University research.

Throughout her years in office, Mary not only worked with other legislators on both sides of the aisle to craft good public policy but also devoted many hours to assisting her constituents with their concerns and problems.  She had a reputation for always returning constituents’ calls and listening with empathy to what they had to say. 

When Mary reached her 4-term limit in the Maine Senate, she was offered a position in the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.

She has sought to build stronger relationships between Maine’s flagship public university and state government, initiating a program that brings 2 or 3 state leaders to campus each semester for one-day residencies to educate UMaine students and faculty on the challenges policymakers face and encourage them to engage in public service.  At the MCS Center, Mary co-founded Maine NEW Leadership in 2009, to offer undergraduate women students an opportunity to receive, at no charge, hands-on leadership training to build their confidence in themselves as potential leaders and inspire them toward public service and political action.  Mary continues to co-direct the program, which has prepared 106 younger women from 27 different higher education institutions to step forward as leaders.  She is dedicated to sustaining the NEW Leadership institute and spends numerous hours networking, fundraising, and seeking opportunities for students to practice their leadership skills through shadowing women legislators and speaking to civic organizations.

Mary has found time also to volunteer as a board member at a number of organizations, including the New England Board of Higher Education, which she chaired in 2006-2008; Eastern Maine Medical Center; Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community; and Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Mary Cathcart envisions a future where women and children feel safe to pursue their dreams, women’s voices are heard everywhere, and women occupy at least half the seats at the tables of power.

Photograph 2013
Inducted  2013


This special recognition was created for the 20th Anniversary of the Maine Womens Hall of Fame ceremony and honors Past State Presidents of the Maine Federation of Business & Professional Women.

Bourgoin, Patricia Carol

Hammond, Jeanne Littlefield

Lovejoy, Arline Rebecca Andrews