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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