Education

We are interested in understanding how women and girls in Worcester have experienced learning, both through formal institutions and through life experiences and relationships. This theme includes women and girls’ experiences within, and access to, schools and higher education, as well as other avenues to knowledge and skills.

Susan Navarre

Executive Director of the Fitchburg Historical Society

I belonged to the Women's Alliance which was a feminist group that I wanted to see what that was like.  So we would end up talking about what we were studying a lot and that always—I learned about myself.  That was always beneficial for me because I learned about myself. Even in my current jobs I still see this.  It’s sort of the abstract ideas that give me energy again.  Like what I do in my job to a great extent is supervise a whole bunch of volunteers and supervise employees and write grants and do budgets and write fundraising letters and all these things. But when I want to sort of get energized again about doing it, and I love doing all that stuff, and I'm not really a scholar, but if I go and I read in the field, like if I go and do some research to present a talk, if I do some historical research, or when I was working running an art center, I would go to the college art association and just hear art history [laughs].  That gave me a bunch of energy and so for me that was a big part of the mentoring groups there. 

Susan Navarre was born in Wyandotte, Michigan in 1959 and recently moved to Worcester County in 2013. She grew up in a small town where she was able to walk to school and enjoyed playing with her neighborhood friends. She stood out academically as she was a bright student and spoke out in class when women were not expected to do so. She is very career driven and has lived all over the country as well as traveling to Europe several times.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/14/2016
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Nancy Johnson

Professor of Education, Worcester State University

Find out what your potential is and build on it, and always have a secondary skill that you can fall back on, and go to conferences, get out, make connections, network. I can’t express the importance of networking, especially in women's groups.  I try to do that. Once you get out of your environment and go into a different, a whole different—a national conference, and you get so excited and people come back so elevated.  And so what if you’re energetic? If you a win a few, lose a few, you know?  At least you made a start and you’re a changed individual.

Nancy Johnson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts at Hahnemann hospital in 1932 and graduated from Clark University with a major in Romance Languages and a master’s in education.  She earned a doctorate from Boston University. As a language major, her desire was to be an interpreter at the United Nations.  However, she decided to continue her studies and become a teacher.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 09/27/2016
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Susan Sweeney

Professor, College of the Holy Cross; Former President Worcester County Poetry Association

I sort of feel what happened in my poems, I write about hurt, and I wonder maybe—and sadness, especially hurt in my poems—because other people in my family couldn’t.  I think that’s why I write or why I have things to write about because I’m feeling [what] other people are not able to express, but also I’m expressing things for them.

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney was born in 1958 in Hagerstown, Maryland. She attended Mount Holyoke College and earned an MFA in poetry and a Ph.D in American Literature from Brown University. Susan lived in North Brookfield for a short time and moved to Worcester to have the opportunity to become an active member of the community. She is a former president of the Worcester County Poetry Association and was on the marketing committee for the Worcester Women’s History Project and the dedicated editor of their newsletter.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 11/12/2015
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Coralie O'Connor

Swimmer, 1952 Olympics; Physical Education Teacher

There wasn’t any swim team for girls back then. My parents were able to talk the swim coach at the Lincoln Square Boys Club into having me coming down and it would be just me. He would watch me swim and make corrections. And then give me a workout to do, which I would try to get done, at the Whitinsville Community Center. The YW [YWCA] found their pool on Chatham Street was donated to with the stipulation that there would be no girls competitive swim team. If they wanted to do synchronized swimming, that was okay, but you couldn’t do no racing. So, the only time I could get in there would be when there was an open swim, and then I would have to swim around people to do a lane. And my coach at Lincoln Square Boys Club would call my house and say, “The executive director’s not here today, I can sneak you in.” [laughs] So, then I’d rush down to the Boys Club and have him watch me. And he’d give me a workout and sometimes I would be doing it with the boys on the Boy’s Club team.

Coralie O’Connor, who swam in the 1952 Olympics in Finland, was born in Worcester in 1934, and had an older brother and an older sister. All of her immediate family has passed; she is the only one left. Swimming was a big part of her life, and she participated in her first swim competition when she was just 12 years old. She attended Purdue University for four and one half years. She participated and swam on club swim teams. As there were not many opportunities for women to swim back then, she even swam on a boys’ team one time.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/17/2015
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Francesca Harris

Human Resources Professional, UMass Memorial Hospital

I would say that you should surround yourself with a great support system, and not be afraid to pursue what you feel passionate about.  I kind of like laugh to myself when I say that because,  every day I sort of struggle with that, too, because there’s a lot that I’m passionate about and,  it’s hard to just stay focused and go in this one direction. You also have a lot of things to think about, like supporting a family and—but I think that you can find a balance between being secure financially and supporting your family, but also being able to do what you really love. And I would encourage anybody to—women, men, anybody who just feels passionate about something to pursue that even if it means that you might have to do that in addition to something else, which is kind of what I’m doing right now. So [laughs] working in two different places, but I feel really passionate about what I’m doing so I’m just trying to find the balance there. 

Francesca Harris was born on Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in 1978. She grew up in Winthrop, MA and graduated from Winthrop High School. She moved on to get her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Westfield State College. Francesca wanted her children to grow up in a suburban-like area, resulting in her and her husband’s move to West Boylston. Francesca discusses her time in college, after college, and today, working at nonprofit organizations like the American Heart Association, Girls Inc., and the Boy Scouts of America.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 12/02/2015
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Sherri Glenn

Court Officer, Worcester District Court

I had this one gentleman come in, he was homeless, came into the courthouse. He wore overalls. He had something in every pocket. He had a jean jacket with pockets—everything had pockets. Everything he owned was on him. He had a beard down to here, a walking stick. No hygiene, you know, he lived on the street. It was raining; it was wet. He smelled. You know, it was just horrible.  And the people I work with, some of the people were just like, “Oh, I can’t take this. I can’t do it.” Like, right in front of the person. And this is a human being. First of all, it’s embarrassing, and I remember I took the wand, and I was like, “Sir, come over here,” and I said, “Let me see your jacket.” I was going through his jacket. I’m going through all this stuff, and this is what he owned. It’s nothing to us, but this is what he owned—his possessions—and it meant stuff to him. So, I took it, and I put it in a little box, and I told him, “I’m putting everything in here. Here is a ticket for it.I promise you will get this back.” And I didn’t make a big deal out of it. He goes and does his whatever he had to do in court and about an hour later, he leaves. I give him his box and things. He comes back the next day.  Here’s this homeless guy, was living on the street, like not near the courthouse, I don’t know where it was in Worcester. He walked all the way back that day just to thank me for treating him like a human being. And I was like, "Why wouldn’t I?"

Sherrie Glenn was born in Rhode Island, but has lived in Worcester, Massachusetts for about 20 years. At 43, she currently works as a court officer at the Worcester District Court. In this interview, she shares many stories from her past, touching on her struggles with coming out as a lesbian, working her way through the criminal justice system, finding love, and having children. She is a determined role model with a tough exterior, but discusses very emotional stories of her experiences with her own parents.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/21/2015
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Kathryn Calo

Partner, Bowditch and Dewey Attorneys

I would probably tell them to not be afraid to speak up whether it’s for yourself or someone else about an issue no matter what. And then also not to be afraid to take risks because I think a lot of—at least I feel like a lot of women are—we’re not risk takers. And I don’t know what it is, whether we are afraid to fail or we are afraid that we are not good enough. I’m not sure. But I don’t think you should be afraid to take a risk because even if you don’t succeed you’re learning something from it. And again, speaking up because I think that unless you can give yourself a voice, nobody else is going to give you one.

Kathryn Anne Calo was born in 1982. She’s the second of four children and is extremely close to her family. After graduating from Medfield High School in 2000 Kathryn went on to get her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Endicott College, graduating in 2004. Kathryn continued her education at New England School of Law in Boston.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/26/2015
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Vanessa Bumpus

Exhibition Coordinator, Worcester Historical Museum

I would say don’t try to do everything.  Do what you know you can do well and do it to the best of your ability. You don’t need to be the women who has a job, and raises children, and plays sports on the weekends, and cooks gourmet meals, can fix her own car, and you know fixes the toilet when its clogged [laughs] and do all these things. You don’t need to have to do everything. If you can do one thing well and find out how you can use that skill to help others, to help your family, to help people who don’t have access to that, then I think you’re successful. It’s all about how you feel about it and how you can use that skill to help others feel just as proud as you are. That’s how I raise my kids and think of success.

Vanessa Bumpus is an exhibition coordinator at the Worcester Historical Museum.  She was born in1975 in New York City.  She attended Marymount Manhattan College for her undergraduate degree and the University of Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for graduate school.  After getting married to her husband, Joseph, she had two children.   Vanessa tells of life growing up in New York and her move to Massachusetts as a teenager.  She also discusses how her family pushed her to succeed in life, which led her to many career opportunities including interning for David

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/13/2015
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Alison Chisholm Hansen

Author of "The Inventive Life of Charles Hill Morgan," Public Relations

Focus on being the best on what you can do and be the best on what you enjoy doing because that’s going to keep you going.  But some of the guy stuff you’ve got to let it slide off your back like a duck.  I am so embarrassed that I had to tell my daughter not very long ago, “You know, men sometimes, pretty often make more than women do in a job” and she is like, “What?”  “Yeah, we were fighting for it in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and it’s still not right.”  And I’m very sorry that that is still the situation.  And really the only way that it’s going to change is if women continue to ask for the opportunities to prove themselves in ways that won’t be discounted 23 percent whatever it is these days.  You have to have a good attitude and hopefully the gender stuff falls away and they focus on what you do, what you contribute, what the outcomes are and the rest shouldn’t matter. 

Allison Chisolm Hansen was born in New York, New York in the early 1970s where she attended Chapin High School.  Allison met her future husband shortly after college and later had two children with him.  By the age of 24, Allison found her way to Somerville, Massachusetts where she resided for nearly two years.  In this interview, Allison speaks of wonderful journey and path she took to get to the position she is in today.  Living and working in many different places such as New York City, London, and Worcester, Allison shares many of her important past times that molded

Interview Date: 
Thu, 11/13/2014
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Therese Grattan

Teacher and Retired Principal, Crocker Elementary School

Every year is a challenge and what’s great is every year is very different.  It’s like a whole new job every September or every August.  There was one year that was a particular challenge.  I had thirty-three students.  And teaching first grade to thirty-three students is very—it’s quite a challenge.  I’m proud to say that every child I ever had I was able to teach how to read.  And with many different levels of students, I feel really proud to be able to say that. 

Therese Grattan was born on November 12, 1948 in Tarrytown, New York, and was raised in Worcester, Massachusetts.  She now lives with her husband, William Grattan, in Westborough, Massachusetts.  Therese has two daughters, Jennifer and Rebecca, and five grandchildren.  In this interview, Therese discusses her life growing up and work history with a focus on her teaching career and accomplishments.  Before finishing her degree at Westfield State College, Therese and her husband got married.  Two years later she earned her degree and became a teacher.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 11/01/2014
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