Portland Cultural Icon and Activist Anne Hughes Has Died

Hughes was a Portland fixture whose influence on the city spanned decades.

After decades of political activism and influencing Portland’s art scene, Anne Hughes has died.

Hughes passed away on the morning of Aug. 26 at the age of 76. Hughes’ son, Joe, announced the news in the Facebook group Anne Hughes Day in Portland.

“You could show her no greater respect, nor honor her memory more truly, than by treating others with love and kindness, by helping someone in need, and by comporting yourself with decency and grace,” he wrote. “Anne would have wanted it that way.”

Hughes suffered from dementia and, leading up to her death, stopped eating and drinking.

“I like to think that was her last act of agency,” Joe Hughes tells WW, “but, of course, it’s not easy.”

Hughes was born Marguerite Anne McBride in 1944 in Washington, D.C. Her family later moved to La Grande, Ore., and then Portland, where she attended Portland State University. While in college, Hughes began working with the Valley Migrant League, which helped migrant farm workers advocate for a permanent community.

From there, Hughes quickly became a Portland fixture whose influence on the city spanned decades. She went on to open two downtown art galleries, host a weekly salon attended by Portland luminaries, and open a cafe inside Powell’s City of Books, the Anne Hughes Coffee Room. After running Powell’s coffee shop for almost two decades, Hughes opened her own, the Anne Hughes Kitchen Table Cafe.

All the while, her political activism continued. In 1992, she was arrested at protests against Dan Quayle during the then-vice president’s visit to Portland. Hughes successfully sued the city over her arrest, and the charges were dropped. According to Hughes’ family, the settlement money from the lawsuit was given to other protesters whose photography equipment was destroyed by police.

Hughes’ wide-ranging career even included a decluttering service in the late aughts, a venture still imbued with her community-focused personal philosophy.

“I don’t think anyone can impose their sense of order on someone,” Hughes told WW in a profile at the time. “I think it’s extremely important to understand how people think and work, and to establish rapport.”

Last December, the Portland City Council declared Sept. 21, 2021, the first Anne Hughes Day, in honor of what would’ve been her 77th birthday. The week before the celebration, several restaurants in and around Portland will be awarded the “Anne Hughes Cup and Saucer.” On the 21st, Portlanders will be encouraged to go support those businesses.

Joe Hughes says that while many people have thanked him for starting the push for Anne Hughes Day, it’s his mother who deserves all the credit.

“She really did all the heavy lifting, I just made some phone calls,” he tells WW. “She really lived an amazing life.”