After a remarkable career of public service, LGBTQ rights and breast cancer activist and political strategist Ann Marie Maguire died in hospice care, surrounded by family and friends, on Dec. 29, 2023. She was 80.
In a reflection on Ann Maguire Day in Provincetown in 2022, then Helping Our Women (HOW) board chair Jayne Carvelli-Sheehan said, “Ann is a national treasure and has done so much for people in all walks of life.”
Ann’s “impact for good and her ability to share her love cannot be overstated,” said state Rep. Sarah Peake.
Ann was born to the late Esther and Joseph Maguire in Worcester on July 20, 1943. She graduated from Bridgewater State University and Boston University.
She was a trailblazer. Long before most gay and lesbian Bostonians met Ann, they knew her voice. From 1973 to 1980, her weekly WBUR radio broadcast, GayWay, offered hope to a largely closeted community. She created safe spaces for women to gather, including the bars Sisters in Provincetown and Somewhere in Boston.
Somewhere “was a safe place for so many of us who had nowhere else to go,” Eastham resident Chris McLaughlin told the Provincetown Banner in 2019. “It is not an exaggeration to say Ann and that space undoubtedly saved countless lives.”
A breast cancer survivor, Ann became an activist for funding research on the disease. In 1991 she became a founding member of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, which helped triple the national budget for research and ensured the passage of the National Mammography Standards Bill and the Cancer Registries Act.
She was a brilliant organizer. “Ann always knew the right people to go to,” said former NBCC board member Susan Troyan. “She was the most fabulous connector.”
“There is a fierceness in her, and a grit in her, along with empathy and compassion that is no-nonsense,” HOW Executive Director Gwynne Guzzeau told the Cape Cod Times. Ann was instrumental in founding Silent Spring, dedicated to understanding the connection between environmental degradation and breast cancer.
Her courage inspired people to act. People turned to her for advice, and she always made time for them. “She was hands-on in everything,” Dr. Troyan said. “She did not know how to say no.”
Ann mentored many who ran for office. She ran the campaign of state Rep. Elaine Noble, who in 1974 became the country’s first openly gay state elected official. She also managed the campaigns of Provincetown Selectman David McChesney and Rep. Peake.
“In 2004, when I challenged the Republican incumbent who had voted against marriage equality,” Peake said, “Ann was by my side every day. She was a tough but loving taskmaster to whom I owe my political career.”
In 1993, Tom Menino, who was to become the longest-serving mayor in Boston’s history, chose Ann to manage his first mayoralty campaign and later deemed it “the smartest political decision I ever made.” Ann was also an adviser to Gov. Maura Healey when she ran for state attorney general in 2015.
Boston’s annual Winter Census of the Homeless was Ann’s brainchild when she served as the city’s health and human services director from 1987 to 1989. Cities across the country now use that model.
Among Ann’s greatest skills was connecting people with different backgrounds and perspectives — from the Back Bay, where she served on the Ward Five Democratic Committee, to East Boston, where her softball teammates lived, and from the corridors of power on Beacon Hill to the homeless shelters at the Pine Street Inn and Rosie’s Place. Her political strategy was less philosophical than granular: relationships outlast rhetoric.
Ann was a long-time supporter and board member of HOW, an organization that focuses on helping women with chronic, disabling, or life-threatening health conditions on the Outer Cape. “She’s a real innovator and disrupter, and we’re living in a time now when things have been cleared for us, in part by the actions of women like Ann Maguire,” Guzzeau said in 2022. Last year HOW dedicated the Ann Maguire Women’s Wellness Center in Eastham in her honor.
Ann lived in Provincetown for more than 25 years and visited for 25 more; she was a member of the Provincetown Community Housing Council, chair of the Provincetown Housing Authority, and a major supporter of the West End Racing Club.
She knew and spoke with everyone, and she never met a puppy she didn’t love. Ann also loved puzzles, poker, bingo, and backgammon — and once considered becoming a professional bowler.
In 2019, friends dedicated a bench in front of Provincetown Town Hall. Its plaque reads: “Ann Maguire, Teacher, Mentor, Activist, Coach, Friend, She touched so many lives for the better, Somewhere, Everywhere.”
Ann leaves Harriet Gordon, her partner and spouse of 39 years. Ann always said that Harriet came “as a package deal” with her two daughters, Jennifer Pratt and husband Steven and Alyson Aneshansley and husband Edward of Marblehead.
A source of pride and joy were her four grandchildren: Benjamin Gordon Pratt, Elizabeth Ann Pratt, Jack Henry Aneshansley, and Julia Rose Aneshansley.
She was predeceased by her brother, Joseph Maguire.
Ann leaves a legacy of kindness and a commitment to making a difference. She frequently quoted the anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Donations in her memory may be made to Helping Our Women in Provincetown.
A celebration of Ann’s life will take place at 1 p.m. on June 1 at the Arlington Street Church, 351 Boylston St., Boston.