It’s International Women’s Day. And it’s got me thinking. For over 40 years, I have been an advocate at the Maine State House and an organizer empowering people to create change in their communities. My earliest work, and the ongoing foundation of my activism, has been to secure the rights of women and their families, and to empower all women to have our voice heard, be represented at the tables of power and to create and impact policy to help women, girls and families thrive.

And here we are. We’re not just at the table – we own the table and can decide what’s on the menu.

Think about it. We have our first female governor, Janet Mills, also a founder of the Maine Women’s Lobby – the first women’s organization to be represented at the State House back in 1980. We have Rachel Talbot Ross, the first person of color as the speaker of the House. In fact, five of the six leaders of the Democrats in the State House are women – also a first. The two chairs of Appropriations Committee (the powerful committee that doles out the money) are women, 19 other women chair legislative committees, and we have nine commissioners who are women, including Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman, who controls workplace policy and was executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby for a decade. And last, but not least, Shenna Bellows is our first woman secretary of state. In my early days this was a lineup we dreamed of – and now it’s reality!

First and foremost, a huge “thank you” to these amazing women. Thank you for doing the hard work and making the significant personal sacrifices to get you where you are today – so that you are in a position of leadership to make a historic difference in the lives of women and their families.

So, let’s do it. Let’s serve up the women’s menu right now. Start by passing the Paid Family Medical Leave Act. This is the simple idea that workers should get 12 weeks of paid leave to have a baby, care for a loved one who is ill without losing their job or income. This was on the original agenda of the Maine Women’s Lobby when it was founded. We all know it would help the economy and decrease stress and economic hardship in women’s and their families’ lives. And we know that we are one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t do this. Let’s have Maine lead and do this now.

We could follow up by making sure there is adequate child care, and that child care workers are paid the wage they deserve. We have started down that path, but there is still a crisis, and the burden still falls on individual women and families to figure it out.


Then, let’s serve a side of paying sexual assault victim advocates a living wage so we can provide services for victims and ensure access and effective services to marginalized communities who are disproportionately impacted by sexual assault.

For dessert, let’s finally pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

Let’s face it – for decades women have done all the “things” – written reports, economic and actuarial studies, shared stories that speak our truth about how hard it is. No more doing the “things” that the male-dominated system insisted we do to prove our worth.

Women now lead the system here in Maine. In the spirit of Frances Perkins, FDR’s commissioner of labor and the author of the New Deal, let’s take bold action now and show the world what leadership by and for women looks like.

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