Politics/Community Involvement

In addition to a traditional focus on the public realm of governance and power structures, this theme should also reflect a feminist understanding of “the personal as political.” We are interested in women’s opinions, values, and activities as they relate to a broad sphere of social relations.

Cynthia Enloe

Professor of Political Science, Clark University; feminist author; specializes in gender and militarism

I offered a new course called Women and Comparative Politics which meant looking at women in revolutions and women in elections and women in social movements around the world. And that would all be 1975/76, but what also happened is that we formed a women’s faculty group and the women’s faculty group became—we loved each other, we learned from each other, we taught each other.  How do you know that your chair is crazy? We have to learn these things. How do you know whether your tenure, your promotion experience is fair or not? And women faculty all got together and they compared notes. This is what a fair department looks like, this is what a crazy department looks like.  Is your workplace crazy or is it normal? And sometimes you have to get together with other people saying, “Woah, we didn’t want to do it like that. That’s not fair.” And then we thought there must be faculty members around Worcester that we should get together with and we formed the Women’s Studies Faculty Consortium and that’s when we all got to know Theresa McBride and Karen Turner right at Holy Cross. And then we joined with Kris Waters at Worcester State who’s a philosopher and so we formed this fabulous group and we would have dinners every fall, they were the best thing ever. So we really began to trade ideas with each other, we began to think of each other as feminists, that was new, we began to tell each other what kind of research we were doing and we all got excited about everybody else’s research. So that kind of brings you up to where we are now. But it was all new. 1970s were so exciting.

Cynthia Enloe was born in New York City, New York in 1938. She grew up in Manhasset, Long Island.  After studying at Connecticut College, Enloe went on to further her studies in political science at University of California, Berkeley. After beginning her teaching career at University of Miami in Ohio, Enloe was offered a job at Clark University, where she taught for several years. Although she does not teach full-time at Clark anymore, she still travels, lectures, and conducts research. Her celebrated work is in militarism, race and ethnicity, and gender.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/16/2017
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Geri DiNardo

Worcester activist;co-founder, The Mustard Seed; Catholic Worker house; author

But we were close to getting arrested that day, really close.  The protest that we had at Seabrook, we were being trained in case we were arrested.  It turned out to be a legal protest. They negotiated for it to be a legal protest and we didn’t get arrested there either fortunately.  I haven’t been arrested but Michael has.  He went to jail for I think 20 days, one of those farm jails where you have to work on the farm.  Yep, and what else? I’ve done a number.  Not a lot. I haven’t done a lot of protests but I’ve done some and I’ve done some Catholic Worker house of hospitality stuff.  I was there for five years and feeding—one time we had lettuce soup.  Most of the time we had enough food, but one time we had lettuce soup because we didn’t have enough food.  Didn’t have enough food, so we had to have lettuce, serve lettuce.

Geri Dinardo was born in Hopedale, Massachusetts.  She attended Our Lady of the Elms College where she studied sociology. She earned her graduate degree in education from Worcester State University. She has lived in Worcester, Massachusetts for over 50 years.  Geri spent many years teaching and has been involved with the Catholic Worker and the founding of The Mustard Seed in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Within the interview, Geri discusses her experiences as a woman and the influential individuals who inspired her when founding The Mustard Seed.  

Interview Date: 
Mon, 04/03/2017
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Martha Assefa

Manager, Worcester Food Policy Council

So I’m now doing food policy on behalf of the food bank, working on anti-hunger which is absolutely my background growing up in Kenya and having family in Ethiopia and knowing what hunger was. I was like, “What the hell are we doing with so much a hunger problem in this community?” You know, 90,000 folks in just Worcester County alone are food insecure.  We’re the richest country in the world and yet we cannot find a way to feed all of our people with what they need. It’s mind blowing.  So working on hunger I built up a relationship with the congressman so it was already like this is great this is just an extension of work because that’s one of his biggest issues.  And then also looking at the food system, and farmers’ markets, and urban agriculture, and federal feeding programs to state legislative programs, local stuff.  So we’re working on urban agriculture culture next week at city council.  Just being able to work on all levels of government and then connecting people from the food pantry level to foodies who are all obsessed with local food and bringing all those people together.  That’s the work that I’m up to now. 

Martha Assefa was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.  She moved to Kenya with her parents and older sister at the age of 3 and lived there until she was 18.  When she was 18, she moved to North Carolina to attend Guilford College where she studied community and justice studies.  She eventually moved to New England and received her graduate degree in Women in Politics and Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts Boston.  Martha moved to Worcester and has been a part of countless accounts of community and political organizing.  Today, she serves as the Worcest

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/27/2017
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Sasha Adkins

Environmental and peace activist; visiting professor Holy Cross; GreenFaith fellow; Birth Doula

I went to high school in Hiroshima and I remember on Peace Day I went to the Memorial [Peace Memorial Ceremony] and there was a man there who was missing an arm and I spoke Japanese at the time, and he looked at me, he said, “Are you American?” I was like, “Ah!” [laughs] And it turned out that he was a survivor of the bombing [American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, August 6th, 1945] and he told me his story and I apologized for what happened. But—and we parted very amicably and he wanted to be at the peace museum not to… hurt people, but to help them put a human face on the suffering that war causes. So, I got very interested in how to make sure we don’t have another atomic bombing.

Sasha Adkins, Ph.D.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 05/01/2017
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Kenza Dekar

Born in Algeria; Studied at Clemente Course in the Humanities

Surprisingly when I came to the U.S., I discovered my faith without the influence of the culture.  And it is something very powerful because we realize our real life there was in part patriarchal, society was everything, you needed the authorization of the father for everything, the husband, and basically you have no independence.  That is not true.  And I got to learn it when I came here because I got to discover my faith without them.  Isn't it funny, that you come to the West to end up becoming a better Muslim?  Isn't it crazy?  But I also discovered that my faith was not at odds with the Western culture, surprisingly.  But to get to this conclusion I had to delve through Clemente into Aristotle and Plato, like you have to go far away back to the Western culture and how it started and it is really not at odds.  So, there is a lot of work to do, and I learned that I can have an impact.  And I just maybe now with the kids very small, I have an impact.  You cannot be created;  you cannot be in this world and just dwell without leaving truth.  And that is something that tells you—someone who is lacking confidence like me—this is powerful.  You have an impact.  

Born in Algeria, Kenza Dekar Raheb immigrated to the United States with her husband and daughter when she was thirty-one.  Since then, she has given birth to two more daughters, home-schooled her children, and worked for a community organization.  Raised in Algeria to appreciate Western culture while living according to Muslim mores, Kenza began to explore religion seriously only after the birth of her first daughter.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 06/01/2017
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Jasmine Jina Ortiz

Professor, Quinsigamond Community College and Becker College, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty

I'd definitely give women today advice to continue to move forward with their personal goals despite what could be going on around them and to not to lose sight of their purpose, whether professional, personal, or family goals.  To continue to be encouraged and to not let discouraging individuals take control of their minds. The loudest voice that should be heard should be theirs.

Jasmine Jina Ortiz was born in 1979, and raised in New York City. She comes from both a Latino and an African American background; her parents are both from the Dominican Republic. She moved to Worcester, MA to attend Clark University as an undergraduate. She earned an MFA form Pine Manor College. Since then, Jasmine has taught at Quinsigamond Community College and Becker College.  She also works for Keller Williams Realty as a realtor.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/03/2017
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Erin Williams

City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and Executive Director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition

It is part of my heart and soul. It’s not work it is living.  And that is where it’s not a negative it’s a positive experience where the challenges of how to bring people together through art is something that I look at every day. And with my coalition and with the city we try to build partnerships around that to see what is best for the city.

In this interview Erin Williams, born in 1957, discusses the many challenges she faced throughout her life, and how those challenges molded her into the woman she is today as the City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and also the executive director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition. As an “artist embedded in city hall,” Erin helps find ways for people to express themselves openly, and bring communities together through the use of art and culture.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/14/2016
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Kathryn Crockett

Architect, Lamoureux Pagano & Associates

I was really fortunate to have landed the position at Lamoureux Pagano because that firm, I just fit with it.  It worked for me.  I was able to contribute and as I said, Dick Lamoureux and Mike Pagano were the ones who hired me.  They were the ones, principles of the firm, and they also—similar to my parents—I never once remember them saying, “Well you should do this because you are a women or only do this or….” There was none of that.  They encouraged me sort of in an objective way.  It was what skills I brought forward and what I could do.  They continually advanced my career as I was able to prove myself basically. So when I graduated it was 1993 and then the next step in terms of becoming an architect is becoming registered, you’re not done with your education. You have to have practical work experience.  You have to work within the field, at that time it was three years and then you could take the exam and the exam was a four or five day exam in Boston one day after another and it was all these different components including: structural engineering, programming, site design, building design, and so I studied for that.  I’d get up at 5:30 am every morning and study and then go into work—for a year—and then I went in to take this exam and in between I had my daughter so it was a lot going on at that point.  My daughter was born in 1993.  So that career is very intensive.  I think a lot of people think that architecture is a sort of, I don’t know,  a lot of people will come up to me and say, “I’ve always wanted to be an architect,” and I’ll say, “Well yeah, it’s a great career,” but  I don’t think most people understand what it takes to become and architect.  

Kathryn Crockett was born in 1957 in Pittsfield Massachusetts, and now works in Worcester, Massachusetts.  In this interview, she talks about her journey into the field of architecture, her thoughts on service to the community, and her love of education.  Kathryn is a motivated, hard working, loving mother and wife.  Education has always been an important aspect of Kathryn’s life.  She started her professional schooling at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in American Studies.  After graduating, she began to work at the Worceste

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/03/2016
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Kellee Kosiorek

Program Coordinator, Seven Hills Global Outreach & the International Center of Worcester

I’ve been there since June.  So it’s still less than a year and [I’m] learning a lot, but now I work for Seven Hills Global Outreach which does development projects in eight different countries including Bangladesh, Haiti, Jamaica, Syria, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and .. Guatemala. Then I also work for the International Center of Worcester which is kind of the inbound programs, and so what we do is mostly work with the State Department and mostly bring visitors here to the U.S to do professional development training so [laughs] I’m kind of all over the place.

Kellee Kosiorek was born in 1992, in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  She moved to Worcester to attend Clark University, where she double majored in cultural psychology and international business and then earned a master’s degree in non-profit management.  Although she had primarily been exposed to her conservative, white family and neighbors growing up, attending Clark opened her eyes to a variety of different cultural backgrounds.  Since then she has fallen in love with exploring other cultures.  Her dream is to join the Peace Corps, but for now she works for the Seven Hills F

Interview Date: 
Fri, 02/24/2017
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Isabelle Jenkins

Associate Director of Community Based Learning, College of the Holy Cross

I would say the people are what makes Worcester so distinct. I think it’s a city filled with people who are really passionate about bridging difference. I spend a lot of time working with organizations that work with refugees and immigrants and that’s where I see Worcester shine the most. I think it is such a welcoming city in that sense and I think people are really great about opening their arms and minds to that. I feel like anybody who I know who’s lived in Worcester and has lived here for a long time, I just have never really seen in other places people have that much love for a place. Just really, there’s some sort of intimate connection people have with the physical you know place of Worcester that I think is really, really wonderful and inspiring and makes me want to engage with the city even more. And I’m just so lucky because I get to see so many different sides of the city with my job. You know I work with 35 community partners, I work a lot with Worcester public schools and a lot with like I was saying refugees and immigrants. I just see a lot of people who are really passionate about seeing this city—not only seeing this city becoming great, but believe that it’s already wonderful and great and, because it is. I mean it doesn’t necessarily look like, it’s not gentrified, it’s not it doesn’t look like downtown Boston, but I there’s so many great things about it already that it doesn’t need to be something different. I mean I do think all the influx of restaurants and the new construction’s great too, but I think, I just think it’s such a shining gem of a place and it’s wonderful to work with so many people who care very deeply about their neighbors. You know neighbors physically, but also just the people in their own community, so I think that’s what makes Worcester really special.

Isabelle Amy Jenkins was born in 1988. She grew up in both Gill, Massachusetts, and New Milford, Connecticut. Her childhood was slightly different from others, since her neighborhood was the boarding school where her mother worked. In her predominately white, middle class town, the boarding school brought diversity to New Milford. She attended the College of Holy Cross for her undergraduate degree and Harvard’s Divinity School for her graduate degree to become a chaplain.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 02/17/2017
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