Annette Rafferty

Founder, Abby's House

Well the first one was Wearing Smooth the Path: The First 25 Years at Abby’s and the second title is Still Wearing Smooth the Path: The Last Ten Years. When we inherited this building for 55 additional units of housing and it was a leap of faith because… we raise our own money, we don’t take state or federal funding for any of our programs, so this would mean increased fundraising, increased grant writing, and yet we knew that if we didn’t take this building it would probably be torn down and there would be 55 more women without housing. So we got the house and the Sisters of Mercy, the St. Joseph’s home for low-income women, and their mission and our mission blended together so besides homeless women with or without women, women who were abused in any shape or fashion, we extended it to low-income women so now that two missions are together, and the wording of the book “Wearing Smooth the Path” comes from a speech that Abby gave at the second National Women’s Conference of Brinley Hall in Worcester in which she got up to give a speech, and she was a fiery woman, and she stood up and she said something like this: “bloody feet, sisters, have worn smooth the path by which you have come hither.” In other words, it’s been no easy journey to get from where I started to where I am now, and when the, what was her name, Margaret LaRue, was the editor, the proofreader and editor of the first book saw the phrase “have worn smooth the path” she said, “Well isn’t Abby’s House wearing smooth the path for women and children?” And hence, was born the title, and it came right out of that second National Woman’s Conference here [Worcester]. So we’re still wearing smooth the path and it’s—and bloody feet, yes I said that, and bloody feet – it’s been a hard journey to get from there to where we are now, but it’s been even harder for the women who come through, but we have made it smoother for them to get from A to B and then from B to C. It’s not a dead-end place; we encourage them to get educated, to find jobs, to get out, to put their names into Worcester housing so that eventually they can have their own place.

Annette Rafferty was born in 1930 in Worcester MA. She attended school at Midland Street School, May Street School, Oxford Public Schools and high school, Our Lady of the Elms College and received two master’s degrees from Assumption College and did graduate work at Boston College, St. John’s University in New York, and Notre Dame in Indiana. After teaching as a nun for many years, she founded Abby’s House, a shelter for homeless, abused and low-income women and children, in 1973. She reflects on her childhood, education, and career path.

Interview Date: 
November 15, 2012