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.

Lila Milukas

Youth Employment Coordinator, Worcester Community Action Council ; Americorps Volunteer

I feel good about this work. I feel I am supporting young people in Worcester and being able to kind of see Worcester in a different light than through school, but also get to know themselves so they can go down a successful path.  This new position that I am doing, which is youth employment coordinator, has been a great experience to connect with youth from ages 16 to 24 and just supporting them in the time they are out of school or in school and thinking what is their next steps, and what the career is going to look like, or what jobs do they want to get to reach that career. So it kind of is what I just went through so it’s so prevalent in my mind so I’m thinking about how getting them to know themselves to be successful and it’s been a really good experience so far.  

Lila Milukas was born in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, in 1988.  She was raised by her mother and father, both of whom were successful in their careers. She attended a small private high school, which emphasized the equality of women and men. From there, Lila went on to attend Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in geography.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 11/02/2016
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Milukas

Bridgette Hylton

Assistant Director of the Counseling and Assessment Clinic of Worcester; Deputy Political Director of the Gov. Deval Patrick Committee in 2010

Try to be happy you know? And work hard. I mean I look at Hillary Clinton and the position that she’s in now where she gets so much criticism. But she said something the other day, I think it was on Humans of New York, about how when she started law school and everyone was like, “You're taking a spot from a man who could be here and you shouldn't be here,” and stuff like that and,  “Now some man’s going to have to go to war and die because you're here.” And our generation is so much more lucky [that] we don't face that as much. It’s still out there of course, but not as much as it used to be.  So I think it’s really important to take advantage of all the opportunities that we have and whether for you that means being the best stay at home mom that you can ever be or the best scientist or a teacher or whatever it is just take advantage of the opportunities that we have because they weren't always available and so we should definitely revel in them. We were talking about how my definition of success changed.  I mean I never saw myself as that mom who was going to be on the PTO.  I didn't see that as success, but as I’m seeing my son grow and seeing the impact it has on him now I see that as something that makes me feel successful and so you know taking advantage of all aspects of what it means to be a woman and the opportunities that are available to us is really important.

Arbane and Jennifer Hylton welcomed Bridgette L. Hylton to the world in 1984, in Boston, Massachusetts. Bridgette resides in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, where she commutes to her job as the assistant director of the Counseling and Assessment Clinic of Worcester, a clinic that provides mental health services to the residents of Central Massachusetts.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 10/04/2016
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Hylton

Merith Cole

Owner of Contracting Company, Owner of True North Holistic Center

Anyway, we did change our name to True North Holistic Center and that suited us well for how the work had sort of evolved over the years and the “true north” coming from the fact that years ago, when sailors were out at sea, they didn’t have all these instruments or anything. The only way they knew where they were is by the north star and as long as they could keep that in mind and in view, then they couldn’t get too far lost. They might veer off the course a little bit, but as long as they could follow that true north, then they stayed the course and they were safe and they didn’t get lost.  And my sense is that every woman—every person—but because I was particularly focusing on women—has that true north within herself.  What are the things that guide your life that aren’t moveable?  There are some things that are going to change as you grow, as you age and have different experiences, but there’s some things that just aren’t moveable for you. Maybe it’s that you feel very honor bound to always speak your truth or family is so important to you or service to others is so important to you. Whatever those things are that make you who you are, the things that make your truly inner core being, those things don’t change in your life. Your circumstances change, the people may come and go in and out of your life, but those things don’t change. If you can stay with that true north of your own personal being you’re not going to get too far lost.

Merith Lynne Cole was born in Granby, Connecticut, in 1943 and graduated from Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Massachusetts . She married at the age of 20 and moved to the Worcester area.  She and her husband had three children. In the early ‘90s, the couple established a general contracting company in Worcester. After leaving the contracting company, she started a retreat center, True North Holistic Center, aimed towards helping women find a place where they would feel grounded and learn to love themselves.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 09/27/2016
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Charlotte Wharton

Artist, Painted the Portrait of Abby Kelley Foster at Mechanics Hall

I went to the Antiquarian Society to read the letters and the oratory a number of times and one day after reading her letters, one day I went to her cemetery. I went there twice and I went to the little office where they keep the ledger of way back—I mean from the beginning of time in this—it's the Hope Cemetery here in Worcester.  And they not only took me to her grave site but they told me that her husband and her were buried side by side and that Abby was buried in the middle and that her feet were facing the stone so that I felt it was okay to sit on her feet, leaning back on her stone.  One day after reading her letters I meditated and that's when the feelings started–I am going to cry—that's when I tapped into her.  It's like her spirit joined me or something it was incredible.  And during the process of the painting and when I was doing the head, I had a long shelf here and I had a large half gallon can there, you see it there. That's my can of mineral spirits and this was full of empty cans and other stuff that I used to have and this was empty. I had stayed up all night long and I had painted it and I had stepped back and everything was dead quiet you couldn't even hear traffic, nothing.  And I said, “Abby Kelly Foster, you are coming to life,” and as those words left my mouth it sounded like something hit really hard on that paint can behind me. I had goosebumps, and it being in the middle of the night! My son and husband were asleep upstairs, I felt like running!  And my hairs were raised up and I said, “No, you’re here, with me, aren’t you?” and from that point on I really felt that she was with me.

Charlotte Wharton was born in Nowata, Oklahoma, in 1944. She later moved to New England following her marriage and became the local artist who painted Abby Kelley Foster’s portrait in Worcester’s Mechanics Hall. Charlotte earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark University and currently works out of a small studio in her home.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 02/13/2016
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Wharton

Sara Swillo Muckian

Associate Director, Holy Cross Fund

I think one of the things is a lot of the time when people go do volunteer work or feeding the poor or hungry, it’s like you go through and cook the food and it’s like they think they are a servant and that’s what people think they’re job is and that’s wonderful. But what I think is, what I’ve come to learn from my mom and dad is that it’s not about feeding them. It’s like sit down and have a conversation because these people are just down on their luck and in a blink of an eye that can happen to anyone.  So my favorite thing was always talking with the people I got to serve it was like, “Okay here’s your food, but more importantly tell me about your life.   Tell me about your family.” I think that goes back to the background that my mom and dad instilled in me. But it’s also has to do with probably my time at Holy Cross and that whole question of who am I to others and  how can I help serve?

Sara Swillo Muckian was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1983.  She was raised in the city and takes pride in residing there her entire life. In 2005, she graduated from her favorite college, Holy Cross. She then started a career at Assumption College, where she developed an interest in helping others by working in Student Affairs. Currently, Sara is the Associate Director of the Holy Cross Fund. Recently, she and her husband welcomed a daughter, who is now one year old, into the world.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/11/2016
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Muckian

Katrina McNamara

Housing Advocate, Abby's House; Immigrated from Ireland

Especially working at Abby’s House. We have a shelter for homeless women, with or without children and then we have SRO’s [Single Room Occupancies]–58 for women and then 17 bedroom apartments for women with children. We do have a lot of women that come in broken, they come in domestic violence, mental health or anything like that there and there’s a lot of great resources for women here. This is a place where they feel safe. They feel comfortable. Just getting people to believe in them, and with that support we have a lot of women who are back at school. A lot of people are doing volunteering, a lot of people doing self-help groups and stuff like that there. I have to say, the community’s very good as well. We have the education part too, and we’re in partnership with a lot of different agencies to help women grow and feel good about themselves. We have a lot of women volunteers who have been very successful in business, encouraging these women and also giving them the skills they need for the outside world. We have a lady that comes in and does computers with the women. Another one that does resumes; we have a woman that does financial planning with them. All these skills, that before these women never had, give them more confidence in themselves.

Katrina McNamara, a housing advocate at Abby’s House in Worcester, was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1967. She moved to the United States by herself to work for an international nanny service. She eventually accepted an invitation from her neighbor to work at Abby’s House. Throughout the interview Katrina discusses the struggles she faced growing up in Derry, as well as how the ethno-nationalist conflict known as “The Troubles” affected her. She also discusses her transition into life in Worcester.  Katrina speaks of the benefits and challenges involved with her job.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/16/2016
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McNamara

Andrea Healy

Director of Human Resources, Cutler Associates

You have to be able to stand on your own two feet and I think you need to encourage your kids to do the same thing. So for me, I think that probably the best advice is to really just take control of your life, control the things you can control, and leave your kids with good lessons.

Andrea Maria Healy was born in 1970 and is currently the Director of Human Resources at Cutler Associates, a construction company in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was born and raised near Worcester, in Boylston, and currently lives on the Paxton-Worcester line. Andrea became a mother at the young age of nineteen years old. She raised two daughters, Courtney and Lindsey, on her own, having never married. Although she would never change this aspect of her life, she confesses that becoming a mother so young was a challenge, especially balancing motherhood and her career.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/11/2016
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Healy

Deborah Gavron-Ravenelle

Chief Compliance Officer, Reliant Medical Group

I guess I don’t want anyone else to feel as though they aren't worthy and that somebody has their back. So I want everyone—I want all the young girls that you get to work with to realize that they have a lot of value and that someone really cares about what they are doing.

Deborah Gavron-Ravenelle was born in New Jersey in 1965 and raised in that state. Right out of college she moved to Worcester, but then resided in various other locations. When she married Bob Ravenelle, she moved back to the city, joined by their two dogs. She attended St. Michael's College in Vermont and majored in both journalism and political science. Working hard academically, she was thoroughly involved in the school community. Wanting to further her education, she attended law school and eventually became a lawyer for an insurance company.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 02/02/2016
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Gavron-Ravenelle

Marjorie Cohen

Community Activist for Children with Special Needs

To me you're a life learner and that’s what I want for my daughter and anybody else.

Marjorie Cohen was born in Worcester in 1949.  In this interview she discusses the tremendous amount of work she has done for families whose members have both mental and physical disabilities. Her daughter, Caroline, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, setting in motion her continuing mission to make the world a better place for handicapped individuals.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/11/2016
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Alicia O'Connell

Lawyer, O'Connell and O'Connell

I honestly couldn’t be happier right now. Growing up, I never thought I would be in the Worcester area. I never thought I would be a lawyer. I never thought I’d be working with my father. But I feel like my days are magic. I get to go to work, get paid, feel proud to be a professional, and then make a difference in the community, and work with amazing women while doing it.

Alicia O’Connell was born in Worcester, MA in 1979, and raised in Auburn, MA. She attended Auburn High School, then graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine with a degree in Women’s Studies and English. She later attended New York Law School. She is currently a real estate attorney at a local firm, called O’Connell and O’Connell. In 2014 she was selected as a Worcester Business Journal 40 Under Forty awardee. Alicia discusses her involvement in the Worcester community at length, volunteering at numerous organizations within the city.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 11/07/2015
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O'Connell

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