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.

Ellen Dunlap

President, American Antiquarian Society

I also feel that when you’re responsible for a big organization and lots of people’s livelihoods depend on me and the success of this organization, I kind of have this responsibility not to wallow in any frustrations, shortcomings, or trials.  You just got to—you know a lot of people are counting on you.  And this institution is two hundred years old, and we have a lot of continuity to maintain, so it kind of puts whatever I’m going through in perspective, and I think that’s useful to get a grip on what are the big issues here, not the little ones.

Ellen Smith Dunlap was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1951.  She currently is President of the American Antiquarian Society [AAS] in Worcester, Massachusetts, an historical organization that was awarded the 2013 National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony.  She married Art Dunlap, became widowed, and remarried Frank Armstrong.  They have a daughter named Libby Armstrong.  They moved to the Worcester area in 1992 and then relocated to West Boylston, Massachusetts.  Before moving she had lived in Waco, Texas and Lawrence, Kansas with her parents.  She th

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/07/2014
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Louise Charbonneau

Director, Holden Senior Center

We work for the government, okay?  But we make a difference every day.   And we can see it.  We never have the same day two days in a row.  Here.  Ever.  But because we deal with people and their lives—okay, we deal with the elders, we deal sometimes with their families, trying to help the elders.  We get a lot of feedback that says, especially after someone’s lost a spouse, “I don’t know where I would have been if you people in this building weren’t here.”  So you make a difference every day.  And that’s important to us.  And it’s gratifying.  It really is.  They are a very grateful population, I mean a lot of people will say, “How do you do what you do?  Old people are cranky.”  And yes they are, some of them, but not all of them.  In fact, a very few of them are.  Most of them are quite good-natured and very happy just to be able to come here every day.  It's important to me to make a difference.  And I can honestly say that my staff and I do.   

Louise Charbonneau was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1954.  She is the daughter of Blanche and Wallace Seager, of Swedish and German decent, and originating from Holden, Massachusetts.  Louise grew up in a Protestant home where she attended church every Sunday.  She has two older siblings, one brother, and one sister.  Louise started her working profession for WPI [Worcester Polytechnic Institute] as a secretary for the president.  She married soon after graduating from a two-year college, Becker Junior College, continuing to work for WPI.  Some years lat

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/17/2014
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Erin Bradbury

Lawyer; Owns law firm; Community Volunteer

My father  was the one who prepared me for college. He, from the time I was in the fourth grade and he realized that I had skills for academics, took me out – I’m sorry I’m crying – and purchased a  desk for me. And we didn’t have a lot of money, but he went out and bought me a brand new desk that I picked out because being a student was my only job. Excuse me, he encouraged me to look at Smith College. I wasn’t looking at any other single-sex schools and he asked me to look at Smith College and took me around to all my college interviews and helped me prepare the tape, my audition tape, for all the schools. He’s the one [who] went out and bought the equipment to be able to make a recording, I recorded a Mozart concerto and I played the flute part and then I learned the piano part which was condensed for an orchestra score and he recorded both parts. So, I accompanied myself on this audition tape. So my father was a huge contributor.

Erin Bradbury was born in Grafton Hill in Worcester in 1972. She attended Wachusett Regional High School, Smith College and Suffolk University Law School. She is a lawyer currently practicing law and owns her own practice in Holden, Massachusetts. Erin is a mother of two, a wife, and an active volunteer, and also has musical abilities. In this interview, she discusses her family aspects and how much they mean to her and how they influenced her life decisions. For example, she discusses how her mother was a “great debater” and how she taught her to stand up for herself.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 02/28/2014
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Judith Wilchynski

Physical Therapist; Volunteer Abby's House, Girl Scouts
Interview Date: 
Thu, 12/05/2013
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Polly Tatum

Lawyer; third woman and first person of color to serve as President of Worcester County Bar Association

That was the challenge. Sleep deprived; didn’t have computers back then, so I typed everything out on a word processor, so I used my secretarial skills. The challenges were working full time, raising a family, having three children, my husband at the time was just new to the police force, so he was working nights, and just trying to balance everything. It was a struggle, but – so I guess from undergrad to law school because I went straight through, it took me ten years; and anything worth having…you have, you fight for it, so that’s what I try to instill in my own daughters. But to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have the energy to do all that. 

Polly Tatum was born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1964, where she lived from childhood into adolescence with her adoptive parents.  In this interview, Polly talks about the challenges she faced during her many years in education.  She enrolled at Worcester State College, achieved her undergraduate degree, and went on to get her JD while simultaneously raising a family of three daughters.  Polly shares a message of motivation and strength in professional and personal lives.  Being adopted as an infant, Polly also emphasizes the importance of family.  Polly had bot

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/25/2013
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Carleen Roy-Butler

Director, Reach Out Center, Assumption College

If you look back on your life when you are 70 years old you will probably say you had it all, but you didn’t have it all at once.

Carleen Roy-Butler was born in Rhode Island in 1974.  She moved to Worcester six and a half years ago when she got the job as the director of the Reach Out Center at Assumption College.  After studying Sociology at St.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 09/29/2013
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Robin Kennedy

State house emplyee and political activist

I would say get involved and speak up. I think even as far as society has come, society still teaches us to take a back seat, to sit on the outsides of a meeting table. You’ll see the men all come sit at the table and you’ll often still see women sit around the outsides.  So I would say sit at the table. It’s still going to be very rare that somebody invites you in, so sometimes as uncomfortable as it may be you have to invite yourself in. And then I would say something certainly that I have tried to do is pay it forward.  You’re given an opportunity,  pay it forward to someone behind you because we’re our best allies and our best advocates so it’s our responsibility to bring other women along with us.

Robyn Kennedy, a state house employee and political activist, spent her childhood in Worcester, Massachusetts and still resides in Worcester today. Robyn was born in 1980, and at 32 years of age has found herself in many leadership positions including the Board of Directors of the YWCA, the National Board of the YWCA, and a political adviser to many campaigns including Lt. Governor U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 10/22/2013
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Katherine Abbott

Executive Director Tower Hill Botanical Garden
Interview Date: 
Sun, 11/10/2013
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Anh Vu Sawyer

Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts; Author

You know, America spoils me with freedom. Because even when I was in Vietnam, I always hungered for freedom…You see America gave me the freedom to be who I am and also gave me the resources so that I can get what I want. Also, American people gave me an amazing example of giving themselves to others.

Co (Mrs.) Anh Vu Sawyer was born Vu Thi Ngoc Anh in 1953 and raised in Saigon, South Vietnam. Upon entering medical school in the early ‘70s, the Vietnam War would be the catalyst for her journey to the West. A dreamer at heart, upon arriving in the United States, Co Anh set her sights on achieving those dreams and goals. Graduating from Calvin College with a B.S. in Mathematics & Economics, her extensive work resume ranges from marketing, business ventures, to being a motivational speaker for ambitious achievers.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/28/2013
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Barbara Kohin

Physicist, Professor, Worcester Councilwoman

When I first came to Worcester it was [challenging]. The colleges didn’t hire women. I sent my resume to WPI, Holy Cross, Assumption. I mean Clark was accepting women, but my husband already worked there so that didn’t work. I sent my resumes around and they didn’t even answer. They didn’t respond or acknowledge. I remember, I thought I’d call up WPI and talk to the Physics guy and he said, “Well, we do have an opening for a Molecular Physicist” and I said ‘I am a molecular physicist!’ And he said, “Really?” I never got an interview. So I did get a job finally, at Worcester State.

Barbara Kohin, a former councilwoman in Worcester Massachusetts, was born in 1932 in Providence, Rhode Island. She attended the College of William and Mary, in which she graduated in 1953. After getting married to her husband Roger, she had three children, and now has two grandchildren. Barbara tells about her experiences growing up as a woman in America and the struggles she faced. She discusses these events such as not getting a job as a physicist at General Electric or as a professor at local colleges in Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/20/2013
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