Dale McCormick

Dale McCormick

Dale McCormick has spent over three decades fighting for jobs, economic justice, health care for all, human rights, and equality for women. As a young child, she was fascinated with carpenters's tools. That fascination has become a lifetime focus. Dale was the first woman in the country to complete a carpentry apprenticeship with the carpenter's union. She is a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters local 1996, and has been a carpenter and contractor for 30 years.

In 1988, Dale founded Women Unlimited, a program that successfully trains women on welfare to compete for high-paying jobs in trade and technical occupations. Dale has, in her own way, become the Susan B. Anthony of today's woman in striving to bring women aboard the work force with dignity, proper training, and fair pay. The results have been astounding and women have proven they are capable of any task they have been trained to undertake.

Dale helped found in 1984 and became the first President of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance (now called Equality Maine), which advocates statewide for civil rights and better treatment for lesbian/gay/bi/transgender/and questioning people.

She was a co-founder of Northeast Women in Transportation, which educated women's organizations around the country about the opportunities in the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA) for increasing the number of women and minorities in the construction industry.

McCormick won a seat in the Maine Senate in 1990 and was re-elected twice in a conservative district. She was elected Treasurer of the State of Maine on December 4, 1996 and served 8 years. Dale is Maine's first female Constitutional Officer.

Dale McCormick has a B.A. from the University of Iowa and has written two books: Against the Grain: A Carpentry Manual for Woman and Housemending: Home Repair For The Rest of Us.

In 2005 Governor John Baldacci appointed Dale as Director of the Maine State Housing Authority. This quasi-governmental organization each year finances the construction of $130 million of affordable housing, weatherizes 1000 homes, serves 48,000 households on heating assistance, gets the lead out of 200 homes, assists 8,000 Mainers with their rent, and helps 1000 Mainers buy their first home.

2002 Photograph

Inducted March 2007


Laura Fortman

Laura Fortman

Laura A. Fortman has dedicated her adult life to improving the lives of Maine women and girls. In fact, thousands of women who have never heard Laura’s name have benefited from her tireless work on their behalf.

Laura was once a single parent trying to make ends meet while putting her education and commitment to women to best use. She spent three years working at the Women’s Resource Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire before moving to Maine in the mid-1980s. At a time when sexual assault and domestic violence services were still struggling grassroots and marginalized programs, she was the successful Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center in Augusta. She was a well-known and very visible spokesperson for women and children rendered invisible by sexual assault and domestic violence.

Laura’s contributions as a key leader in the anti-violence movement in Maine are one example of the enduring value of her contribution to women. Always conscious of the need to couple support and empowerment of individual women with broad based social change and problem-solving, she not only managed the agency, but she also served as a statewide leader and advocate across the state. Importantly, she has consistently coupled her advocacy on behalf of women and girls with nurturing leadership in others, mentoring many young and not so young, women at the Maine Women’s Policy Center.

As Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center for over a decade, she was the voice for women and girls in the Legislature, speaking to the full array of circumstances affecting women, including health care, reproductive rights, economic security, discrimination, and education. In the legislative and policy arena, she helped to pass Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act, insurance coverage for contraception, a resolution requiring the Department of Labor to implement Maine’s Equal Pay Act, Maine’s Parents as Scholars program empowering welfare recipients to access higher education, the ground-breaking employment leave for victims of violence law, and unemployment insurance protection for part-time workers and for victims of violence, among many others. Through her leadership on the Commission to Study the Unemployment Compensation System, the Commission to Study the Costs and Benefits of Paid Family Medical Leave, the Maine Health Care Performance Council, and many others, she brought the voices of women to the policymaking process.

Appointed Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor in 2003, Fortman brought her management and political competence to the state’s workforce development system. Under her leadership, that system has developed new standards for helping women attain professional and economic success, fostering, first and foremost, equal pay for women and long-term security for Maine’s families and communities. In her tenure, the wage gap has narrowed, and the state’s employment services have improved for women, offering better pay and a wider range of jobs, including nontraditional occupations. Laura Fortman has been a tireless advocate for improving the social, economic, and political lives of Maine women and girls. Her work has truly touched the lives of every woman in Maine.

2007 Photograph


Florence Brooks Whitehouse

Florence Brooks Whitehouse

Florence Brooks was born October 29, 1869, into a prosperous and socially prominent family in Augusta, Maine. She was educated in the Augusta public schools and at St. Catherine's Hall, a private boarding school, and later spent several winters studying art, drawing, music, and languages in Boston. She loved travel, and in 1892-1893 took an extended trip abroad. Her travels took her to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Africa, and the Holy Land, as well as to the art centers of Syria and Egypt.

She returned to Maine and married Robert Treat Whitehouse, a young lawyer who was also from Augusta, and the couple moved to Portland. Over the next several years they had three sons, but Florence still found time to write two novels, The God of Things and The Effendi, both romances set in the Middle East. For her first novel, she also produced a number of very fine illustrations; the second, written when she was confined to bed rest during her third pregnancy, was illustrated by the well-known artist I.H. Caliga. She was the author of many short stories, and with her husband co-wrote, directed, and acted in several plays.

Around 1913 Florence got interested in the issue of woman's suffrage, and soon became active in every possible suffrage league she was able to join. In 1915 she founded the Maine branch of the Congressional Union (later the National Women's Party), and served as its chairman until suffrage was won, five years later. This earned her much local notoriety because of the "militant" tactics employed by the Congressional Union organizers. Most of Florence's Maine suffrage colleagues were shocked and appalled when Congressional Union suffragists picketed the White House and Congress, and campaigned against the Democrats (then the party in power) for failing to pass an amendment to the federal constitution enfranchising women. They also disrupted Congressional hearings, and burned President Wilson's speeches in the park across the street from the White House. Florence herself picketed President Wilson, both in Chicago and later at the White House, and traveled to Wyoming in 1916 to help organize the women there (who already had the vote) to oppose Wilson because "He kept Us Out of Suffrage."

Florence's skills as a writer, a public speaker, and an organizer were unequalled in Maine's suffrage movement, and she was a key figure in the last six years of the struggle. She worked closely with national suffrage leaders, including Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul, especially during pivotal periods when the nation looked to Maine for breakthroughs in the battle. Following enactment of the 19th Amendment enfranchising women, she went on to serve with the Portland Chamber of Commerce and campaigned for the League of Nations and International peace and disarmament, among many other activities. It is unfortunate that her radical reputation kept her from getting more than a brief mention in the scant histories that have been written about Maine's suffrage history; she deserves much more than that. Still, while suffrage activities occupied six years of Florence's life, they were just one aspect of an accomplished and varied career. She was a remarkable woman, with a fierce love of justice, a deep commitment to woman's rights, and an unshakable loyalty to her beloved state of Maine.

1916 Photograph

Inducted March, 2008


Karen Heck

Karen Heck

Since 1979, Karen Heck has dedicated her professional career to bettering the lives of women and girls throughout the State of Maine. Through her tireless efforts and far-sighted vision, she has advanced a broad spectrum of women's issues, including reproductive rights, economic security, literacy, safety, and health. To put it quite simply, the hallmark of her life has been to make life better for all women and girls in whatever way she can.

Karen has an endless supply of energy for working to promote women's issues in Maine. She has worked both locally and statewide for a variety of causes and countless programs have benefited from her attention over the past twenty-five years. Her efforts most recently have resulted in the widely acclaimed Hardy Girls Healthy Women, Inc., which she co-founded in 2000 with Lyn Mikel Brown and Lynn Cole as an outgrowth of their annual girls' conference, Girls Unlimited! Hardy Girls programs offer diverse learning experiences ranging from media literacy, self-esteem, adventure and career opportunities, in all of which Karen has been a guiding light.

In addition to Karen's work with Hardy Girls, she has been a principal for more than ten years in The Avalon Group, a consulting company focused on women's and girls' health issues. She also is a Senior Program Officer for The Bingham Program, a charitable endowment that promotes health and advances in medicine in Maine. Prior to these endeavors, during her tenure with the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Karen focused much of her attention on family planning and reproductive rights, and promoting fair taxation and universal healthcare.

Karen has volunteered thousands of hours in her role as a community activist, fundraiser and champion for women's rights. It would be virtually impossible to list all of the wonderful causes to which Karen has applied her energy, iron-willed determination and unbridled enthusiasm.

Karen is committed to making Maine a great place. She helped found the Peace in Our Communities Task Force, is a member of the American Association of University Women and Bridges for Peace and Justice, a member and past president of the Waterville Rotary, the current Vice President of Waterville Main Street, past president of the Coalition and Family Planning Providers' group, a past board member of the Maine Women's Fund, founder and past board member of Safe Abortions for Everyone, and has volunteered her time to help in various ways with the Mid Maine United Way, the Waterville Boys and Girls Club, the Mid Maine Homeless Shelter as well as for various Maine women's political candidacies.

Although Karen doesn't look for acknowledgement of her accomplishments, she has received recognition and accolades in many forms. Most recently, she was awarded the Maine Statewide AAUW 2006 Achievement Citation Award, the highest award for extraordinary community involvement in women's issues. In 2002, Karen was awarded the Business and Professional Women's Women of the Year Award, together with Lyn Brown and Lynn Cole, for their work founding Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

Throughout her more than twenty-five years of working in Maine, Karen has brought wisdom, creativity and strength to the table for women and girls. In all her professional and volunteer work, Karen has made life in the state of Maine the way life should be for women and girls. She has been a mentor, a friend and an ally to tens of hundreds of women, young and old, helping in ways large and small. It is with great honor that her sister Janet Heck Doyle and Hardy Girls Healthy Women have nominated Karen for the 2008 Maine Womens Hall of Fame.

2007 Photograph

Inducted March, 2008


Sharon Barker

Sharon Barker

Sharon Barker’s contributions to the advancement of women and girls in Maine are extensive and long-lasting. In her leadership and advocacy roles throughout her career, Sharon has demonstrated a deep commitment to public service. Her personal power, keen intellect and exemplary networking skills have brought disparate people and causes together to create a better place for Maine people to live, work, grow and succeed.

Sharon has worked tirelessly to challenge and change the status quo for women, including improving educational access and creating economic opportunities as well as providing for their health care, safety, and reproductive freedom. Her focus is always on gender dynamics, and her approach is to act as a bridge and a catalyst, leveraging others’ work and communicating across generations and between sectors.

Through her position as Director of the University of Maine Women’s Resource Center, Sharon has made significant contributions in the development of all students (men and women) and the entire faculty and staff who work in so many diverse disciplines with diverse responsibilities. She has offered leadership in different ways at different times, responding to the needs and opportunities she encounters, including leadership programs for women students, networking opportunities for women in fields where they are under represented, advocacy for support staff and socioeconomic equity, exploring power dynamics, building coalitions, and working with men and women to achieve gender equity.

As an influential and engaged citizen of Maine, Sharon’s reach extends far beyond the University of Maine campus.  She provides support to the public schools and to numerous community and governmental organizations that benefit women and girls, including the nationally recognized “Expanding Your Horizons” conference for middle school girls, her leadership in founding Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center and her service on numerous boards of directors and committees (e.g., Mabel Wadsworth Center, Penobscot Valley AAUW, Maine Women’s Fund, Eastern Regional Commission for Women, Good Samaritan Agency, Bangor CUReS Project, Bangor Rape Crisis Center, Women’s Business Development Corporation, and the Komen Foundation). In addition, Sharon has made significant public service contributions on state task forces, committees and special projects; for example, she served on Congressman John Baldacci’s Advisory Committee on Juvenile Crime, Domestic Violence, Drug Abuse and Hate Crimes. Most recently, Sharon served as a member of the Maine Jobs Council and chairs its Women’s Employment Issues Committee, which issues an annual report, “Working Women in Maine: Initial Indicators for Progress,” tracking Maine women’s success in the labor market.

Sharon’s prominence on the national level is exemplified by her receipt of two grants.  A grant from AAUW Educational Foundation established a scholar-in-residence program at the University of Maine with author and researcher Lyn Mikel Brown.  Brown studied the societal forces that influence girls and ultimately affect women’s friendships, and wrote the book Girl Fighting, one of many outcomes of this grant.  The second grant created the Maine Girls Collaborative Project, a member of the National Girls Collaborative Project, through funding from the Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology and the National Science Foundation.  This initiative brings girl-serving organizations together to strengthen capacity by sharing practice research and program models, outcomes and products to increase girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Sharon’s work has been widely recognized through a variety of local, state, and national awards.  Notable among these are the 2004 Sarah Orne Jewett Award of the Maine Women’s Fund, the 1997 National Education Association’s Mary Hatwood Futrell Award, the 1997 Mabel Sine Wadsworth Women’s Health Achievement Award, the 1999 Bangor and Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Woman of the Year Awards and the 1995 Steve Gould Award at the University of Maine.

Sharon was born in Canada and grew up in Aroostook County. She attended the University of Maine, receiving degrees in psychology and public administration. Her family has always been a primary support in her life, along with Ruth Lockhart, her lifelong friend and professional colleague. Sharon lives in Bangor with her life partner, John Hoyt. They have two sons, Adam Barker-Hoyt and Matthew Hoyt and a granddaughter Chelsea Hoyt.

2009 photo