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.

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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Annette Rafferty

Founder, Abby's House

Well the first one was Wearing Smooth the Path: The First 25 Years at Abby’s and the second title is Still Wearing Smooth the Path: The Last Ten Years. When we inherited this building for 55 additional units of housing and it was a leap of faith because… we raise our own money, we don’t take state or federal funding for any of our programs, so this would mean increased fundraising, increased grant writing, and yet we knew that if we didn’t take this building it would probably be torn down and there would be 55 more women without housing. So we got the house and the Sisters of Mercy, the St. Joseph’s home for low-income women, and their mission and our mission blended together so besides homeless women with or without women, women who were abused in any shape or fashion, we extended it to low-income women so now that two missions are together, and the wording of the book “Wearing Smooth the Path” comes from a speech that Abby gave at the second National Women’s Conference of Brinley Hall in Worcester in which she got up to give a speech, and she was a fiery woman, and she stood up and she said something like this: “bloody feet, sisters, have worn smooth the path by which you have come hither.” In other words, it’s been no easy journey to get from where I started to where I am now, and when the, what was her name, Margaret LaRue, was the editor, the proofreader and editor of the first book saw the phrase “have worn smooth the path” she said, “Well isn’t Abby’s House wearing smooth the path for women and children?” And hence, was born the title, and it came right out of that second National Woman’s Conference here [Worcester]. So we’re still wearing smooth the path and it’s—and bloody feet, yes I said that, and bloody feet – it’s been a hard journey to get from there to where we are now, but it’s been even harder for the women who come through, but we have made it smoother for them to get from A to B and then from B to C. It’s not a dead-end place; we encourage them to get educated, to find jobs, to get out, to put their names into Worcester housing so that eventually they can have their own place.

Annette Rafferty was born in 1930 in Worcester MA. She attended school at Midland Street School, May Street School, Oxford Public Schools and high school, Our Lady of the Elms College and received two master’s degrees from Assumption College and did graduate work at Boston College, St. John’s University in New York, and Notre Dame in Indiana. After teaching as a nun for many years, she founded Abby’s House, a shelter for homeless, abused and low-income women and children, in 1973. She reflects on her childhood, education, and career path.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 11/15/2012
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Konstantina Lukes

Lawyer; First elected female mayor of Worcester

Being a candidate and being a public servant are two different jobs, a candidate has to be a public relations person and the product you’re selling is yourself....... public service means another thing other than promoting yourself, you have to know how to solve problems and meet the needs of your constituents.

Konstantina Lukes realized at about the age of eight or nine she wanted to go into politics after being introduced to the mayor by her father. Her Albanian background caused her to want to be a part of politics because of her knowledge of the oppressive dictatorship in Albania. Konstantina Lukes ran for school committee in 1979, and has been in politics ever since -- about 30 years. She served January 13, 2007 – January 4, 2010 as the first elected female mayor of Worcester. Currently, she works as an attorney in Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 11/14/2012
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