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.

Regina Edmonds

Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Assumption College

When I was in high school they were trying to track me into, you know, all the lower tracks and track me to –what do you call that—vocational training ‘cause I really didn’t—I always got really, really, really high grades but that was just ‘cause I worked so hard. I didn’t want to go to college. I thought I had enough of this [laughter] aggravation and enough of this kind of, not feeling particularly confident. But my parents said that wasn’t an option, that I was going to college whether I liked it or not, so that was probably a very good decision. So I went to college. I graduated in the top five and with Phi, Phi Beta Kappa so I guess I wasn’t as dumb as everybody thought [laughter] and then I went to the University of Pittsburgh and got my PhD. I would say that my challenges are also something I really in many ways value because I think that when you sort of struggle to understand something you can really explain it better to other people and I feel like I’m really good at that, you know, that I’m a good teacher, that I have a tremendous amount of respect for other individuals who struggle because I did. And I really do think it’s about hard work in large measure [laughs] and, and really, someone who will support you, people who believe in you, and my family believed in me even though, they thought I was kind of stupid [laughs]. And no one, no one ever thought that I would be the one in the family who wound up with a PhD but somehow I did.

Regina Margaret Edmonds was born in 1946 in Bayonne, New Jersey. Jeana was one of three children to the late Richard and Rose McBride Edmonds. As a child, Jeana and her family moved regularly due to her father’s job. In the fifth grade, she moved from Bayonne New, Jersey to Glens Falls, New York and she stayed there until the ninth grade. Her family then moved to Long Island where she graduated as valedictorian of her high school class. Her family moved to a new part of Long Island while she received her undergraduate education from Elmira College.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 10/28/2012
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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.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/17/2012
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Cook

Ivy Velez

Intensive Care Coordinator working with deaf

You know I’ll kind of explain more. The languages are—have—pretty much the same foundation and Puerto Rican has borrowed a lot from ASL. It’s interesting a lot of the graduates from Gallaudet end up going to Puerto Rico to teach and so they brought a lot of their language there and a lot of the ASL influenced that and then the missionaries would come to the churches and spread throughout the island and they would be using ASL . So they would use some ASL, some Puerto Rican sign language, and eventually they would just blend together.

Ivy Velez was born in Puerto Rico and currently lives in Marlborough Massachusetts. She is an Intensive Care Coordinator and works with deaf families with children as part of a bicultural, bilingual health care program. In this interview Ivy discusses what it was like growing up deaf in the United States after her move from Puerto Rico. She shares her educational experiences, the differences between Puerto Rican Sign Language [PRSL] and American Sign Language [ASL], and how she assisted her deaf parents with translation.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 03/01/2011
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Velez

Andrea Dottolo

College Professor

Oh it’s my, I mean it’s my identity, in many ways. I mean it’s who I…I think similarly to the idea that when I became immersed in women’s studies, it changed my life. I mean it changed how I saw my world, it changed how I saw myself, it changed how I saw relationships, it changed how…it just, it became a lens through which to understand everything. So, it became part of me, my identity as a feminist, my identity as a  -- I always knew that I wanted to, I mean at least for a long time I knew that I liked psychology, and I knew that I wanted to teach, but this women’s studies piece added so much more to it than I had imagined. I mean, I think my work means…I think it’s an incredible luxury that I get to do what I love, that I, that I have the privilege of being able to do this work that I have wanted for so long. But for me, my work is not just like a…it’s obviously not a…you don’t get into this to make money, right? So it’s not like I’ll ever be rich. But it’s the personal and the political and social commitment; what I study, what I research, and how I teach, for me. It’s like who I am.

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Interview Date: 
Tue, 02/24/2009
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Dottolo

Lorna Farquharson

Born in Jamaica; Nursing Home Worker

And so the chair was here and I’m sitting in the chair, and something or other was on TV, but neither of us was interested, and he went and stood over there [points toward kitchen], and I heard when he said, “Grandy, you’re like a man.” I said, “What did you say,  my cookie?”  He said, “You’re like a man.” I said “Come my darling, come.” So I shift in the chair, and pull him in beside me and I said,  “Honey, the Father gave me only sons and now grandsons, so I have to be tough and strong.” And we both went silent. And the next day when I got up, that was one of the first thoughts I had. The child say you’re like a man, he didn’t say you look like a man, you’re like  a man. And I say “Glory hallelujah, I have been affirmed!” Because      I have wanted affirmation and here it is, my four year old grandson  gave it to me.

Lorna Farquharson was born in Jamaica in 1946. She spent her early childhood and early school years with her family in Jamaica. In this interview she explains how she came to the United States, the jobs she had when she first came to the country, and how she met her husband. She attended Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State College where she took nursing and business courses. She also talks about having a Chiari malformation with syringomyelia that almost killed her when she was in her forties. Lorna raised two sons and now her greatest pleasure is her grandchildren.

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Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/19/2009
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Farquharson

Barbara Groves

Teacher, Principal, College Counselor

I love being in education. I always was able to get along well with kids. Most of my career was spent with high school aged kids, some with middle school. I taught seventh grade for a while. But even in most of my administration, I was a college counselor for eleven years so I was working with seniors in high school, younger ones too, but primarily seniors. And I loved having the opportunity to help kids focus on where they were gonna go, what they were gonna do, and working with their families.  When I was a kid my father always said that each generation should leave the world a better place then they found it and I guess I thought if I could help young people do that, then you know…that was a good thing.

Barbara Groves was born in Springfield, MA. Her father was a salesman and deacon, and her mother was a pianist at the local church. She has one sister; she’s married and has two daughters, one son, and one child deceased. In this interview Barbara discusses her life story including her moving to nine different locations throughout her life. She discusses her teaching and counseling career and how they have helped her find meaning in her life. Indeed, in this interview, Barbara gives insight to a number of ways of finding significant meaning in life.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/15/2010
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Groves

Rose Anne Ferrandino

Manager of medical records; Community Volunteer

I took banking courses, and then I took medical courses, and then I worked for the state and you couldn’t advance if you didn’t have degrees.  And secretaries at that time took on a lot of responsibility, but they could never go further than the secretarial slot because they didn’t have the degree.  So I went back to school and I was on the twenty-year plan.  You know, I would work during the day and by that time they had – a lot of the colleges were offering night classes.  So I went to Quinsig [Quinsigamond Community College] for a couple of years and then I transferred to Northern Essex Community College where I got a degree in medical record technology.  So then I could be the boss of a medical record department in the state system, with an associate degree and accreditation as a medical records person.  So then from there I went to Worcester State College and I got a degree in Health Science, but I was retired when I got my degree [laughs].

Rose Anne Ferrandino was born in 1936 in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was the oldest of four children and grew up in a predominantly Irish neighborhood. Her parents sent she and her sister to Ascension High School, an all-girls' Catholic school in Worcester. She went on to take classes at Quinsigamond Community College, Northern Essex Community College, and Worcester State College. She married and had two children. Her husband died of lung cancer in 1996. She also has a grandson.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/30/2010
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Linda Forte

Teacher; First Generation Finnish-American

Being part of an immigrant population, and it’s funny you ask this ‘cause I was just talking to somebody else about this, there were not any of the bells and whistles you have today to help kids.  You walked into a classroom, you were labeled “immigrant.” You were put at the back of the room.  And I was telling someone the other day that I was sitting in the back of the room and as immigrants came in, they kinda put us together, just in the back.  And the girl they partnered me with, she came in and she was actually, literally off the boat from Greece.  And they put her with me and they’re like “You can help her” and I’m like “Oh my god, it’s all Greek to me” no pun intended.  [Laughter]  You know, I – and I’m thinking to myself, “How do I help -you know I speak Finnish, they’re not even close in language at all. 

Linda Forte is currently a fifth grade teacher at Worcester Arts Magnet School.  Although teaching wasn’t her initial career goal, Linda finds it rewarding and worthwhile to be able to make a difference in a child’s life.  She was the first of her family to be born in the United States, as her family emigrated from Finland. Although she faced no gender discrimination, she was discriminated against as the child of two immigrants.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/27/2010
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Forte

Hilda Hein

Professor of Philosophy; first tenured female faculty member at the College of the Holy Cross
I think that for the first few years, what people said about women was essentially true: that the A students and the F students were going to be men, and in between there would be a range of women, and that was true. I had a lot of B students – women – not a lot of A students, and I think it was largely because they were shy, they were overshadowed by the men, and it was hard work to get them to open up, raise their hand, talk, have opinions because they weren’t educated to do that, and it took a long time. And it took a kind of defiance of the norms, I mean, because you sort of had to almost violate them saying, “What do you think, Susan?” or “Miss so and so” or whatever it is I called them, [laughter] and that gradually changed over time, and I’m constantly aware of it even now. I mean, I thought about it when you called me, that women, young women now, more than older women my age, have a sense of entitlement. Of course the world is going to be there to provide their needs. That wasn’t true then. It simply didn’t enter into anyone’s consciousness.

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Interview Date: 
Tue, 10/06/2009
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Barbara Combes Ingrassia

Librarian and Educator, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Well, again I think I took the safe way, I didn’t take risks, I wasn’t a risk taker. I did what was expected. I think that I sort of fell into the work that I do, so I continue to look for my purpose and remind myself that life is a journey; it’s not a destination, you don’t arrive, you’re always continuing that journey.

Barbara Ingrassia was born in 1952 in New York. Her father had an Associate’s Degree in rural engineering and her mother had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Few parents at this time had degrees, and both of hers did, so she was very proud of them. Barbara received a Bachelor’s Degree with a secondary in Social Studies from University of New York Geneseo. She also received her Master’s Degree in Library Sciences at SUNY Geneseo. She looked at education as her job and she put all her efforts into her studies.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/13/2009
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