UMaine combines honors for community pioneers on International Women's Day

Nancy Fritz | Maine Women's Hall of Fame

A photo of Nancy Fritz
Nancy Fritz

Nancy Fritz started her first job at age 14. Five years later, she married and gave birth to her first child. Growing up, Fritz learned that if she wanted to buy anything beyond basic necessities, she had to work for it. She adopted the view that anyone can get what they need in life by holding down a job, and held that view until she learned that equal opportunity did not exist in employment or education.

My work experiences and volunteer efforts, especially with people who are homeless, have focused on helping others achieve basic stability so that they can access the privileges that many of us take for granted, said Fritz.

The University of Maine will recognize her contributions to society on International Women's Day, March 8, by inducting her into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame.

For six years, Fritz served as Director of Homeless Initiatives in the cabinet of former Maine Governor John Baldacci. She chaired the State Council on Homelessness, directed the Department of Homelessness at the Maine State Housing Authority, and was a founding member of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, which was formed in 2000.

Much of Fritz's work was also devoted to helping victims of domestic violence. Because of her upbringing, she knows how she can affect a home by turning what should be a holy place into a place of fear.

It wasn't until a personal revelation that Fritz turned her focus to domestic violence awareness. A woman of faith, Fritz studied at Bangor Theological Seminary. As she was ordained into the ministry, she said a speaker she held in high esteem described her as ethical and honest.

I knew I wasn't living up to this description; I was living a lie, Fritz said. The next day I began to share my secret for my ex-husband, my friends and colleagues that I haveI understand myself as a lesbian.

After this fact, she joined a group of activists and helped start the Maine Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance, now known as Equality Maine, in the early 1980s.

Because of the challenges she faced working in the church at the time, she moved towards community service. While working to earn her Master of Divinity from the seminary and bachelor's degree in human development from UMaine, Fritz began volunteering as an advocate for families experiencing domestic violence.

She later served as executive director of the Augusta Family Violence Project, the Augusta Children's Center and the Coastal Community Action Program in Rockland. She also strengthened the Maine Coalition Against Domestic Violence into a more consistent and reliable resource for women across the state.

Her other work expanded the definition of health care in the state of Maine and its benefits to homeless children, families and individuals. Fritz has been an advocate for advancing educational opportunity and for equality, believing that everyone has value, dignity and the ability to make a difference.

Despite her reputation as a social justice warrior, her friends and family know her as a humble woman with four generations of homemaking knowledge and walls adorned with patchwork quilts.

Contact: Ashley Yates; [email protected]

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