Margaret Ellen McEntire was born in southern California, the youngest of four daughters of Sue Lang and Jacob McEntire. She spent her early years being doted on by her older sisters. Margaret overcame adversity and put herself through college, earning her B.A. in Women's Studies from San Francisco State University after nearly a decade of hard work. Her determination and love of learning continued for the rest of her life; she earned a certificate in Folklore Studies from UW-Madison, and audited dozens of classes there, including several science courses she was taking at the time of her death.
Margaret’s coming of age prior to Roe v. Wade forged her lifelong dedication to abortion rights. She spent her early career in California and traveling around the country working in Democratic politics for luminaries including Bella Abzug, until she finally landed in Madison about 40 years ago. Despite her conviction that she never wanted children, she welcomed the two young daughters of her then-partner into her life and schooled them on film noir, feminism, and proper use of the F word.
She spent her later years working alongside her good friends, Betty and Corkey Custer, at their financial firm, while continuing to be involved in countless political and community organizations. She ostensibly retired several years ago, but even so, never seemed to have a leisurely minute – too many books to read and lectures to hear!
Margaret was interested in everything – from folklore to microbiology to poetry to Jewish history to anti-racism. She was a voracious reader, a lover of film, theater, music, and art, and a cultural epicure. Margaret was also a dedicated environmentalist, bike commuter, wonderful gardener, and professional-level reducer/reuser/recycler.
Margaret’s lifelong mission was to elect pro-choice Democratic women. Even though she had been a professional campaign manager, she never stopped doing political gruntwork: phone banking, knocking doors, or wrangling people into writing checks to her preferred candidates. Margaret is at least partially responsible for electing nearly every Democratic official in Dane County and many beyond.
For someone who was at times brutally unsentimental, Margaret was extraordinarily loving and thoughtful. Her generosity always came without fanfare – indeed, often without a knock – but virtually every person who knew her would find themselves the recipient of some encouraging note, helpful task, or useful item that she knew would be appreciated because she asked genuine questions and listened carefully to what you said. Her unvarnished honesty was not always appreciated by us midwesterners, but her interest in making real connections and not wasting time was genuine.
Margaret died peacefully in her sleep of natural causes, while visiting friends in New York City. She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Mary Ogilvie, and many much-loved cats. She is survived by her sisters Anne (Ted) Reed and Barbara (Arnold) Tucker, forever stepdaughters Kelda Roys (Dan Reed) and Claire Thexton, and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, please celebrate Margaret’s life by calling a loved one you haven’t talked to recently, planting something in dirt, or (Wisconsinites) bringing a friend with you to vote for Judge Janet Protasiewicz on April 4.