Mary Elizabeth McAleney was born on March 18, 1945 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her parents, Helen Irene Twombly and William Deehan McAleney, were respectively a Works Progress Administration worker and a U.S. Customs officer. McAleney came from a strongly Democratic family and was politically active from a young age. She was sent from her home near Vanceboro to St. Joseph’s boarding school in South Portland, and from there she went to Merrimac College. After her graduation, she taught high school, first at St. Joseph’s and then at Catherine McAuley High School. After eight years of teaching, she got divorced, quit teaching, and went into political work. She quickly rose through the ranks in Senator Muskie’s ‘76 campaign, and worked afterwards for state majority leader Jim Tierney. Afterwards, she worked with George Mitchell, the Maine State Employee’s Association, and other assorted Maine political figures and groups.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "McAleney, Mary oral history interview" (1999). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 244.