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.

Alison Graham

Educator; March of Dimes Volunteer

I have a huge value for family and, for me, I think my college education prepared me to be ...  an educated woman who hopefully impacts society. I have skills that I can offer in various settings [laughs].  And so those things are very important, but just because of my degree I don’t necessarily think I have to be in the work force.  I think my value of family right now for this season trumps the education that I received.  Do I believe that it was all for not?  Absolutely not. I learned how to be a good learner and I, I just, I learned so much that I am able to apply in various settings, but I think family is of the utmost importance and I think being there for children is also extraordinarily meaningful and fulfilling, but also important because as a parent I’m helping to shape two little pieces of the next generation and to teach them to be responsible, and honest, and hardworking, and loving, and caring, and kind, and considerate, and compassionate. Those things don’t necessarily get developed unless you’re intentional about it. And so, I’m very intentional as a mom.

Alison Gale Graham was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1979. She was raised in Worcester until roughly six years old, and now lives in Holden, Massachusetts.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/03/2011
Name Sort: 
Graham

Linda Rosenlund

College Administrator; Founder of Worcester Women's Oral History Project

I got involved in the Worcester Women’s History Project in 1999 and I’ve been involved since and I helped establish this oral history program. I think it’s a very important program for the city and really beyond that because as I mentioned, I had gotten interested in genealogy and my family from Southern Italy they didn’t—my grandmother—my great-grandmother didn’t even know how to write so when she came to this country all I have is an “X” from her in her signature block with her passport. So when I started to do genealogy, I couldn’t find any letters or diaries or anything like that because she couldn’t even write, but it doesn’t mean that her life wasn’t important. So she would be considered an ordinary woman, but she did great things for her neighborhood and for her family and I wanted to make sure we could capture the stories of women and that was really the genesis of my thought.

Linda Rosenlund was born in Worcester in 1960 and grew up in Bellingham, Massachusetts after the age of seven. After graduating from Assumption College in 1982, she got married and worked a few different jobs before finally working where she is now, at Assumption College. In this interview, Linda discusses her life story, including her various jobs, her experience with her family, and her affiliation with the Worcester Women’s History Project. Linda was raised in a family which was held up by traditional values through her father.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/23/2010
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Rosenlund

Eve Rifkah

Writer, teacher, Poetry Oasis

I wrote a proposal and got a grant to run a writing workshop for women at the Women’s Center at Abby’s House, the center for homeless women. And I did that for a year and put together a chapbook for one of the women there who wrote lots of poetry and I got that printed with part of the grant I got that, that paid for having that printed, which made her day! I mean it, it’s so awesome to see this woman who is ill, and mentally disturbed, and diabetic, came from this horrific, horrific background, and I thought mine was bad! [Her's] was so much worse and what she went through and the abuse she went through in her life, and here she is, y’know, living in a little studio apartment that she’s able to do with, what do ya call it, funding, and she’s on disability, and I was able to make a book for her. And she had a reading at Abby’s House, and a lot of people came, and she sold books, and, I mean just miraculous what this did to this woman.

Eve Rifkah was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1948. She graduated from Canton High School and did not go back to school until she decided to get her Master’s in Fine Arts from Vermont College. Although Eve moved around a lot when she was younger, she settled in Worcester, Massachusetts during the year 1983.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/15/2010
Name Sort: 
Rifkah

Harriette L. Chandler

Massachusetts State Sentaor

I think the other difference is that women, I’ve found -- and I’ve been Chair of the Women’s Caucus in the past so I hear these things over and over again -- but women are very hesitant to run for office. It’s almost as though there’s this huge barrier and they start thinking about how much money they have to raise, they start thinking about do they have enough of a base, they also, probably because I know this is the way my mind works – do I have the right set of talents for this? Do I have the right degrees? I mean women think we can solve everything by going to school and getting another degree. The truth of the matter is that men don’t think of this at all. They graduate from college and if they want to run they run [laughs] and it sort of works out. But women don’t think that way. It’s all got to be more carefully planned out and that is one of the reasons I think that women have –  we have about a quarter of the legislature are women and that is about the same percentage that we’ve had for the entire sixteen years I’ve been there.

Sen. Harriette Chandler is the first woman from Worcester to be elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and has also served on the Worcester School Committee and the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College in 1959, a Ph.D. from Clark University in 1973, and an M.B.A. from Simmons Graduate School of Management in 1983. She is married to Atty. Burton Chandler and has three children and four grandchildren.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 08/10/2010
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Chandler

Sara Robertson

First Woman Mayor of Worcester, MA

The first time I saw Worcester was from the window of a train. I had left California to go to Boston University graduate school. I had never been to the East. Coming in to Worcester I looked around, all this smoke coming out of stacks, houses on top of houses, I had never seen anything like that before. I literally sat in my seat and thought to my self, “I feel sorry for anyone who has to live in a place like this.” It just to me was the worst environment I had ever seen. I found out I was very wrong. You can’t tell a book by its cover.

Sara Robertson was born on July 22, 1934 in Long Beach, California. She was a Worcester School Committee member, president of the Worcester League of Women Voters, and the first woman to serve as Worcester’s mayor (1982-83). She also taught at Becker College and Worcester State College during the 1980s.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/04/2006
Name Sort: 
Robertson

Honee Hess

Director of Education, Worcester Art Museum
….one of the things that I think is important for communities is that there are community traditions and it’s those traditions that make you feel like you’re part of something and so “First Night Worcester” is really a community-building event. We work out into the community all during the year, we train teachers in different art forms; we organize school kids, and do a lot of things that then culminate at “First Night” along with the professional concerts and things like that. So you know I think that that’s the achievement that I’m most proud of with “First Night” is that it really has become this community-building event. 
Honee A. Hess was born July 11, 1953 in New Orleans and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts in 1986 to take a job at the Worcester Art Museum where she is currently employed as the Director of Education. She lives in “Crown Hill” the first planned neighborhood in the city built in the middle of the 19th century. After the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina, she and her husband started hosting a charity event in order to raise money and awareness for victims of Katrina in New Orleans.
Interview Date: 
Sun, 11/08/2009
Name Sort: 
Hess

Barbara Haller

Worcester City Council Member, District 4
I applied to and was accepted as a VISTA volunteer-Volunteers In Service To America...this was back in '67, it was in the middle of the whole hippie thing. I was very much a part of the whole hippie movement...So I was sent to Chicago, Illinois, community organizing, and was assigned to a store front church. And we were doing outreach into neighborhoods not unlike neighborhoods that I would call Main South.
Barbara Haller was born in the suburbs of in Schenectady, NY in 1948 and currently lives in the Main South neighborhood of Worcester. She got involved with activism and the “hippie movement” at a young age, doing community organizing as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in Chicago during the height of Urban Renewal programs and helping to run a collective farm school for delinquent youth in Arkansas. Moving to Massachusetts in the mid-1970s, Barbara began commuting to Worcester to study engineering, first at the former Worcester Junior on Main Street and later at Worcester Polytechnic.
Interviewer: 
Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/27/2005
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Haller

Mary Lou Anderson

College Dean and Professor
I think that many things have changed in our society so that there are more opportunities for young women and for people of other ethnic and racial backgrounds. Certainly things have changed. But they haven’t changed so much that the obstacles aren’t there. In my own experience sometimes somebody will automatically think to ask a man before a woman and that still exists. You also have to always be aware that when you come into any kind of a position that you have to double check that the man is not being paid more than you are being paid and there are all kinds of ways of getting around that. . . So I think that there still are struggles out there.
Mary Lou Anderson was born and brought up in Worcester, in The Island and Vernon Hill. She went to Anna Maria College, then earned an M.A. at Assumption College and her Ed.D. at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She taught English in the Worcester Public Schools, later became Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education at Assumption College, and now is Dean of the College and Graduate Studies at Assumption.
Interview Date: 
Mon, 03/23/2009
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Anderson

Mary Jo Nawrocki

School District Superintendent
They [girls] were basically treated as if their sole aspiration should be to graduate from high school and maybe work as a secretary or work in retail and find a good husband, get married, and have some kids. Unlike today, we weren't really encouraged to pursue careers outside of the home.

Mary Jo Nawrocki was born on September 13, 1949 and grew up in Pennsylvania. Central Massachusetts became her home after she moved with her husband to the area. Nawrocki, currently a superintendent of a school district, manages to balance her incredibly active life.  Not only has she created a career for herself in education, but she has risen to one of the top levels of that career. She has also managed to raise a family, volunteer in her community, and become engaged in local political life.
Interview Date: 
Wed, 04/15/2009
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Nawrocki

Brenda Safford

College Administrator, Director of Multicultural Affairs

They told me, 'You should go to college,' and at that point I was 38. So thought, 'It is over for me, I can’t, are you crazy? I can’t go to school now.' And they said, 'Why not?' And that is how I began my educational journey as a late learner, an adult learner.

Brenda Safford was born on August 5, 1956 in Lubbock, Texas. Moving to Worcester with her second husband, Brenda worked within the community and became an adult learner at the age of 38, receiving both her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Human Services. Brenda is currently the director of Multicultural Affairs at Assumption College. In this interview, Brenda speaks about her days growing up in Lubbock, Texas, and her experiences with both racial segregation and integration in her school system.

Interviewer: 
Interview Date: 
Mon, 03/30/2009
Name Sort: 
Safford

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