PORTLAND – It may have taken Ann Elizabeth (Gorham) Mussenden 30 years to organize a union among her fellow office workers at the New England Telephone Co. (later Verizon), but she wasn’t one to be deterred, her brother said.

“She was a stubborn woman when she had to be,” Eddie Gorham, a longtime labor leader in Maine, said of his sister, who died Saturday at age 69. “She was very easy to deal with — as long as she got what she wanted.”

That the Gorham kids would join a union — or form one, if need be — was a given, Gorham said.

Their parents were both union members: Their mother was in the electrical workers’ union at the phone company, and their father was a union longshoreman.

Their grandfather was head of the Portland longshoremen’s union for many years.

“My sister had good tutors, if you will,” said Gorham, who was secretary-treasurer of the Maine AFL-CIO for 13 years and then president for 10 years before retiring in 2000.

For Mrs. Mussenden, it took a long time to get her union card, because it took three decades to form the union representing several hundred office workers.

The office workers weren’t organized when she went to work for New England Telephone in 1966. It would be 1996 before the union was recognized and Mussenden was elected vice president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1400.

Her daughter, Erin Mussenden, remembers walking picket lines with her mother as a teenager when the Verizon workers went on strike in 1999.

She also said she inherited her mother’s passion for unions.

“It was intense,” she said. “She was extremely dedicated to workers’ rights.”

“She and Uncle Eddie helped to get me involved in organizing,” Erin Mussenden added, noting that she spent a summer in California in a union internship, helping to organize hotel and restaurant workers in California.

After retiring in 2008, Mrs. Mussenden continued her involvement in the union, becoming the first president of the CWA 1400 Retirees Association.

She also developed a deep interest in genealogy, researching her family using the resources at Portland’s Irish Heritage Center.

“I think it had a lot to do with finding out a lot about our grandparents’ siblings,” Gorham said, and tracking down where all 15 ended up.

Mrs. Mussenden made two trips to Ireland — in 1967 and again last year — visiting the Connemara and Galway areas where the family is from.

Mrs. Mussenden obtained dual Irish and American citizenship in 2001.

Erin Mussenden said her mother also made about 20 trips to Bermuda, where she loved to scuba dive.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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