The anti-tax woman goeth

A legendary voice in Massachusetts political battles is stilled

WHEN COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE arrived on the scene 20 years ago, Barbara Anderson’s most public battles were already behind her. It was in that context that founding editor Dave Denison paid her a visit at the downtown offices of Citizens for Limited Taxation and then, a week later, at her “small, cluttered Marblehead home.”

Anderson, who died on Friday at age 73, was the driving force behind the state’s turn toward a wariness of reflexive tax increases. In the process, she’s probably more responsible than any other individual for the fact that the state has largely shed the”Taxachusetts” label.

Denison’s profile appeared in the magazine’s second issue, in the summer of 1996. Read it here.

Not one for pretense or preening, Anderson greeted him at the door to her house in “navy blue sweatpants, torn at the knee, and a heavy sweater.”

She confesses that her son voted for Bill Clinton and railed against “running-dog capitalists” during his days at UMass, that (limited) taxation is a necessary evil, and that “traditional conservatives” have some valid points, though she can’t bring herself “to support their agenda or vote for it.”

She had a spiritual side, which led her to famously answering the question of whether she was libertarian by saying, “No, I’m an Aquarian, with Libra rising.”

Meet the Author

Dave Denison

Founding Editor, CommonWealth magazine
But that didn’t extend to a let’s-all-hold-hands view of politics and settling the big issues of the day.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Anderson told Denison dismissively. “I don’t buy that. It’s always going to be adversarial. And so you have to hold your own on what is a battlefield.”