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South Portland lawmaker Lois Reckitt dies at 78

Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, D-South Portland, speaks Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, D-South Portland, speaks Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.

Lois Reckitt, 78, died Monday, according to a spokesperson from the Maine House Democrats.

Reckitt was serving her fourth term in the Maine House, representing South Portland, and was known for her advocacy for women's rights. She sponsored a bill that passed this year to partially decriminalize sex work. And she tried to add an equal rights amendment to the state constitution.

Before she was elected in 2016, Reckitt helped found Through These Doors in the 1970s, originally called Family Crisis Shelter, and then served as the organization's executive director for over 30 years.

She was also one of the founders of Maine Women's Lobby. The organization's current executive director, Destie Hohman Sprague, says Reckitt was a force for legislative change to prevent violence against women.

"I think she set such a profound example of what it is like to work on an issue, to follow your heart to work on an issue in every possible way," Hohman Sprague said. "She never gave up working as an activist and an advocate and then a policy maker and I just admire that so much."

Reckitt was committed to the issue at the local, state and even national level, Hohman Sprague says, pointing to Reckitt's time working at the National Organization for Women. Reckitt was elected national executive vice president for the group in the 80s and was a board member for many years.

Marion Wagner, a longtime NOW member from Indiana, got to know Reckitt through the group and the two became friends over the years, visiting each other and getting together with other members at national conferences.

"There were things we agreed with, things we disagreed with each other about — policy issues, priorities, things like that — we were always able to maintain a friendship, because we respected each other even though we didn't always agree," Wagner said. "I think she would have that relationship with lots of people."

Gov. Janet Mills described Reckitt as a tireless defender of the rights of women and girls throughout her life. And House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross said Reckitt's legacy of leadership and tenacity will continue to inspire residents across the state.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.