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Gilda E. Nardone
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Lois Galgay Reckitt
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Arline Rebecca Andrews Lovejoy

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