Ann McGowan, a former managing editor at the Morning Sentinel and member of the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame, died Tuesday.

McGowan died of complications from dementia after falling at her home last week in Pittsfield, according to a daughter, Jolene McGowan. She was 87.

Ann McGowan was considered a trailblazer for female journalists in Maine, having entered the field in the early 1960s, when newsroom positions were long filled by men. She was the first woman to hold the top editorial position at the Morning Sentinel.

Ann McGowan works from her home in Pittsfield in the mid-1960s. She was a correspondent for the Morning Sentinel at the time, covering the Pittsfield area. McGowan would go on to hold several positions at the newspaper, including managing editor in the 1990s. She was inducted in 2012 into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of McGowan family

McGowan, who was inducted into the MPA’s Hall of Fame in 2012, worked for more than 35 years at the Morning Sentinel in a variety of roles, including correspondent, features writer, columnist and editorial page editor, before being named managing editor in the early 1990s. She was one of the first women to hold the title of managing editor of a daily newspaper in Maine.

Her family and former colleagues remember her for her kindness, grit and dedication to the job.

A native of Skowhegan, McGowan learned a strong work ethic from her mother, a single parent who raised her while working in the mills. McGowan graduated from Skowhegan Area High School in 1953, then completing a year of college in Massachusetts before returning to Skowhegan to marry Barney McGowan.


As the couple began having children, they found they needed additional income. In 1961, when a reporting job opened, McGowan jumped at the opportunity and joined the Morning Sentinel as a correspondent for China, where the family was living at the time.

Ann McGowan in 1995. Morning Sentinel file

“I’m always impressing people with that fact,” McGowan said in a 2012 interview following her induction into the MPA Hall of Fame. “Then, of course, I tell them it was China, Maine.”

Jolene McGowan said her mother took her work seriously, but still maintained a sense of humor, allowing her to earn the respect of her male peers.

“(She) just sort of ignored the guff,” Jolene McGowan, “but also stood up for herself.”

After a few years in China, the family moved to Pittsfield, where McGowan worked for more than a decade at a large oak desk in the hallway of her home.

McGowan’s children said although it felt normal to them growing up, having a working mother in the 1960s and 1970s was unusual. 


“She always had lots of friends who were stay-at-home moms, who would come over during the daytime for coffee and, you know, to hang out,” Jolene McGowan said. “She loved them, but she was always on deadline.”

Another daughter, Jean McGowan, said the family sometimes played a supporting role in McGowan’s newspaper work.

“A family outing might include my brother tagging along to a fire or a car accident to take the picture while mom took notes,” she said.

McGowan would often direct one of her children to hop onto a bicycle and place her stories and undeveloped film onto the bus for delivery to Waterville. 

McGowan’s diligence and dogged approach landed her a staff position in the early 1980s, as the Morning Sentinel’s first full-time features writer. She began to work out of the “smoke-filled” newsroom in downtown Waterville, Jolene McGowan said.

It was a challenging atmosphere, a real boys’ club, McGowan told her family. McGowan would eat a late lunch alone in the office while her colleagues took “martini lunches” at the Silver Street Tavern, said another daughter, Jill McGowan.


McGowan at one point was tipped off by a colleague that she was earning “a fraction” of what the men in comparable positions earned, Jill McGowan said. Her mother would instruct her children that adversity was a problem to solve, so she met with her boss who agreed to a pay raise, her daughter said.

As a features writer, McGowan “interviewed anyone who was famous who came to Maine in the ’60s and ’70s, especially if they visited Skowhegan,” Jean McGowan said. 

Among other notable people of the time, McGowan interviewed actor Mickey Rooney, writer Barbara Cooney, musician Jud Strunk and artist Robert Indiana. She also interviewed actor Henry Fonda in the weeks before the release of his final film, “On Golden Pond.”

Morning Sentinel reporter and columnist Amy Calder worked with McGowan for several years, until McGowan’s retirement in 1996. Calder and former Morning Sentinel reporter Darla Pickett nominated McGowan for induction into the MPA Hall of Fame, which honors journalists who have made outstanding contributions to the profession.

“She was a hard worker who cared about the news and making sure readers got the information they needed about what was happening locally and worldwide,” Calder said. “I enjoyed working with her, as I know many others did. She was a wonderful person.”

McGowan in retirement remained active in civic affairs in Pittsfield. She was part of the effort to renovate the town’s Beaux-Arts-style library that was built about 1905 with funding provided by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie. She helped raise $1.5 million for upgrades to the building.

McGowan is survived by her husband, Barney McGowan, and five children: Jean McGowan of Portland, Oregon; Jennifer McGowan of Hallowell; Jill McGowan of Falmouth; Jolene McGowan of Portland; and Patrick McGowan of Fayette.

A celebration of McGowan’s life will be held at her home in Pittsfield at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 15.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to establish a visiting writer series in her memory. Checks should be made out to The Friends of the Pittsfield Library, 110 Library St., Pittsfield, Maine 04967.

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