Lisa Connelly Cook

Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Quinsigamond Community College

Well, it was when I was in school, actually I was at Clark [University] and I was taking a class on women in the law, and we were reading a book by Eleanor Flexner called A Century of Struggle and I read this section about Worcester and the 1850 Convention and was surprised I had never heard of that before. And it had just occurred to me that—at that time it was like 1992—that 2000 would be the 150th year anniversary and it was only a few years away and wouldn’t it be cool to do something about it! And that was sort of the beginning—thought of it, but I really didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know anything about the women’s movement from that time, or Worcester, or Abby Kelly, or any of these things. And so then I had seen that there was going to be a talk at Abby’s House about Abby Kelly Foster and I went to that talk and met Annette Rafferty who runs Abby’s House, and Elaine Lamoreaux who was also working with her in that, and Al Southwick who was a local historian. I proposed the idea to Annette Rafferty and she thought it was a good idea. Then I went to another event over there later and met Angela Dorenkamp and told her and she was really supportive. At that time I was working as a secretary and going to school and she was just so supportive. She just said, "Oh you can do that,” and I said, “Thanks, well, you know I’m a secretary,” and she said, “Oh you know I think a secretary can do anything.” [laughs] And she was really encouraging and she had actually written an article that was published in the newspaper about the Seneca Falls Convention and so I had read that and I was like, “Oh I have read your article and I would really like to do something like that about the 1850 convention” so that’s when she was like, “Oh do it! You can do that!” And then I ended up going over to the YWCA to look for a space to have a little meeting and from there met Linda Cavaioli who just was totally enthusiastic about it. And she had seen the article that I had published in the paper and from there we just started talking to people and just there was so much interest in it. Right away people were like, “I never heard of that! That sounds like a good idea! I want to do it.” And it was almost like so many people just wanted to jump on and get involved. Yeah, it was like a lot of energy.

Lisa Connelly Cook was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1961 and attended Wachusett High School in Holden. Lisa lives in Leominster now with her husband Nash Mbugua, who is her second husband, in a condominium. Her two daughters currently live in Boston; she was pregnant with one of them during her senior year of college and had to go on maternity leave. Before moving to Leominster, Lisa lived in Quinsigamond Village near the College of the Holy Cross and in Millbury for 19 years from 1987 to 2006. She watched the majority of Worcester’s issues play out as she resided in Worcester during those years, like parking issues and developmental problems. Lisa thinks the history of Worcester makes it so distinctive because historically it is a very hardworking city. Lisa discusses how the legacy and successes of Worcester are still around today with the abilities to study in Worcester, do research, or find a job. Lisa thinks women played an important role in the Worcester community by organizing a community and trying to push things along the way women wanted, even though they didn’t really have formal political options. Lisa is currently an Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Quinsigamond Community College. The combination of the teaching assistant work that Lisa did for four years plus the work she had done with the Worcester Women’s History Project intertwined because both skills involved a lot of public speaking. Lisa elaborates on the importance of learning and education in order to develop your own knowledge and flaunt your successes in the workforce. Lisa also touches on her experiences as a young working mother and the changes she saw as she worked in the city of Worcester.

Interview
Interview Date: 
October 17, 2012
Interview Focus: