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Governor Maura Healey named USA TODAY Woman of the Year

Governor Maura Healey named USA TODAY Woman of the Year

Maura Healey is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, a recognition for women who have made a significant impact in their communities and across the country. Meet this year’s honorees at

Maura Healey broke two glass ceilings when she was elected governor of Massachusetts in November: she became the first woman in her state to hold the office and, along with Tina Kotek in Oregon, one of the first two lesbian politicians in the state to be elected governor were chosen.

Healey, 51, is no stranger to historic firsts. A political newcomer, she became the first elected LGBTQ+ attorney general in the country in 2014 after winning the run for the office in Massachusetts.

As the chief attorney of the state government, she quickly gained national fame. She became a leading public challenger to Trump administration policies, suing the administration nearly 100 times over issues such as the travel ban for Muslim-majority countries and family separation policies at the US-Mexico border. She also made Massachusetts the first state to sue the Sackler family for their role in the opioid crisis.

Previously, while serving in the Massachusetts Attorney’s Office as Chief of Civil Rights, Healey conducted a successful legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act and helped pave the way for marriage equality to become state law.

And before she became a lawyer and politician, she was an accomplished athlete, playing professional basketball after college in Austria. As a child, she played basketball, field hockey, soccer, tennis, and softball.

Healey said she has applied lessons from her years as an athlete to her work as a lawyer and beyond.

“I love sports,” she said. “You learn about teamwork, hard work, overcoming adversity, setting goals and all that.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

So many people. I think of my mother first. I think about what she did as a single mom to raise us. She’s just a really strong woman who taught me so much.

I remember she sold her wedding ring to pave half a basketball court behind our old farmhouse. She was always looking for ways to open up possibilities for us. I learned a lot from her at a young age about hard work, sacrifice and teamwork.

I think of the people who have gone before me. I think of the people who make this possible, the trailblazers, whether they were women in their struggle for equality or members of the LGBT community who were not afraid to live their lives authentically. I am grateful to them for everything they did to make it possible for me.

Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey sits in the chambers of the House of Representatives in Boston before being sworn in on January 5, 2023.
Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/AP, file

I’m really proud that I’ve had the opportunity to build and lead an attorney general’s office that has found ways to transform people’s lives every day.

Another thing I look back on and am proud of is our successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. That was a case that a lot of people thought we couldn’t win, and we took it to the Supreme Court and won. And that helped lay the foundation for nationwide marriage equality.

I am also proud of the work my team has done to expose the Sackler family and hold accountable against the opioid manufacturers and distributors that have ruined the lives of so many people in this state and across the country. We were the first state to sue the Sackler family, exposing the misconduct of the Sacklers and Purdue Pharmas.

As a woman and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, my focus is on exploring all the ways government can advance equality. This includes ensuring that we have policies in place in all areas of government – including housing, employment, education and healthcare – that address systemic inequalities. It also means ensuring representation in boards and agencies that include a diversity of lived experiences and a commitment to advocating for the rights of those who have been marginalized for far too long. For this reason, I have directed my team to apply a justice perspective to everything we do, beginning with conducting a justice assessment across state government to measure where there are gaps in access to our services.

Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey shakes hands as she arrives in the chambers of the House of Representatives to be sworn in as governor Thursday, January 5, 2023 at the State House in Boston.
Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald/AP, file

There were challenges as a girl and woman along the way. Now we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, but I remember growing up there just weren’t that many girls playing sports. It just wasn’t something a lot of girls did and most of my youth teams were dominated by boys. I was lucky that I got the chance to play, but being one of only a few girls was something I had to get used to.

Later, in my professional life, it was men in certain areas for a long time. I was pleased to serve as Attorney General in a firm that was made up of mostly women managers, officers and associates. I pay particular attention to how representation really matters and how important it is to those who have been marginalized for too long.

I also remember being a gay person nervous about how I might be perceived in the workplace, what clients would say if they knew. It’s been a long time and a lot has changed, but I’ve had experiences where I’ve been aware of being “different” or not being what people expected. And ultimately, you must find your own trust in yourself and who you are.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey in her corner office at the State House in Boston on January 9.
Marc Vasconcellos/The Company

With every bad game or practice, you have to be able to get up the next day and shake it off and move on. I think having a strong team around me has always helped me. I benefited from that when I played basketball and later in the Attorney General’s office, and that’s what we’re working on in the Governor’s office right now.

When you’re in government and your job is to care for people every day, people who have so many needs, and you look at some of these issues around housing, labor, childcare, and food security, there’s so much to it do. And you have to have this mentality that every day you give it your all and you do your best and you get up the next day.

No fear. trust your instincts trust your instincts Follow your passions. Don’t assume you can’t do something just because you don’t see anyone who looks like you can.

dimensions Governor Maura Healey
Don’t assume you can’t do something Just because you don’t see anyone who looks like you do.

When I graduated from college, I had to decide whether I should go to grad school or do something else, get a job. And I felt a lot of pressure to do both; I had just graduated from Harvard.

But in the end I wanted to play professional basketball in Europe. People thought I was crazy to do that.

In the end it was one of the best decisions of my life. I had the opportunity to move to a new country, to a new continent, and to have a whole new set of mind-opening and eye-opening experiences.

Another time was when I decided to run for office. I was considered a very unlikely candidate as I had never run for office before and we were certainly an outsider. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to people saying it wasn’t my turn.

Published March 22, 2023 at 9:01 UTC
Updated March 22, 2023 at 12:00 p.m. UTC

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