Work

“Work” is a value-laden term that has changed drastically over time, particularly in relation to women’s daily lives. Despite a legacy of opinions to the contrary, WWHP views women’s work as inherently valuable, whether taking place in the formal structure of paid employment or the private realm of home and family. We seek to understand each woman’s work on her own terms in her own words.

Ruea Baum

Nurse, U.S. Army, WWII

When I first entered the service we had basic training, the same as the men had.  When they put us on the wards we had to get up at five o’clock in the morning and doing the basic exercises and so forth and then you went on duty at seven o’clock.  You worked seven to seven with two hours off.  You always had one afternoon a week and at the end of the month you had two days off.  On night duty, if you worked nights you worked from seven pm to seven am with no time off.  You were supposed to have a half hour for supper but you could never leave your ward because you didn’t have time to really.  We were sent overseas, like I said, in December.  Went to Scotland, down across England, and then down to France where we were stationed at a general hospital in a small town about the size of Hudson [MA], I would say, in Chalons-sur-Marne, France on the Marne River.  And it didn’t make any difference what you had done in civilian life they would assign you to most anything in the army, but I discovered they found out I had done night supervisor for three years and all of a sudden I was on night duty [laughs].  And night duty was twelve-hour duty, no time off.  You worked from seven am to seven pm and if there was any classes or anything you were supposed to go to you had to go during the day with no sleep.  Just no time off for night nurses. 

Bolton, MA resident, Ruea Baum, shared her memories of serving as a United States Army nurse in England and France during World War II from September 1944 to July 1946. She retired from the military as a 1st Lieutenant and recalls the German surrender and marching in the Eisenhower parade.  She was born in 1921 and recently celebrated her 96th birthday.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 11/20/2016
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Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk

VP, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Central & Western Mass

Know that you can do whatever you want to do, and don’t let anyone else define that for you. And when you’re scared, it’s actually good…So, you do it, and it’s the only way to make it go away, because you have the experience, and you’re not afraid of that thing anymore.

Having spent the totality of her life in Worcester, it is no doubt that this city holds a special place in Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk’s heart.  She was born in 1973 and lived in Main South, attending various public schools in the city of Worcester, until she went on to college, first at Assumption College, then Worcester State University, to receive a bachelor’s degree.  Kate got her start in Worcester at Shaw’s Supermarket on Gold Star Boulevard.  This fueled her love for the improvement of the city, leading to working for Worcester Magazine and now in her current position as Vice

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/06/2017
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Mary Caulway

Greater Worcester Land Trust

I would say stick with your career. There’s got to be a way, because raising the kids is really, really wonderful, but if you can make it so you can do both… that is awesome... whatever you choose to do, do it.

Mary Caulway was born in 1961 and is from Vestal, New York. She is married to William Caulway and together they have three children. Mary moved to Massachusetts in 1988 and currently resides in Charlton, MA. In the early 2000’s Mary began working for the Greater Worcester Land Trust, which is a nonprofit land conservation organization, and she now volunteers with this organization. Since she began working in Worcester, she became very passionate about the city and what it has to offer.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/12/2017
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Birgit Straehle

Art Conservator, Worcester Art Museum; Owner, Sprinkler Factory

Worcester is a welcoming city, it’s the city of inventors. Just went to the Harvey Ball last night, to the Worcester Historical Museum. And I think that’s a good place where all the inventions are well-kept, and you can see what Worcester was and is still! Worcester, I think, follows that tradition because now it’s more, less the industry. But I love, I love, a lot of new entrepreneurs are starting in Worcester.

Birgit Straehle was born in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany, in 1973, and works as an Art Conservator for the Worcester Art Museum, located in Massachusetts. Birgit graduated high school, and eventually went on to major in art history at university in Germany. In 2003, during her second semester at university, she took a break from her studies to start her internship in Worcester for half a year to gain hands- on experience in her field in- between her studies.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/06/2017
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Joy Rachelle Murrieta

Musician; Music Teacher, Worcester Music Academy; Founder, Main Idea

I try to give myself this advice every day. That is, don’t ever let fear be the reason you don’t do something, go for something. If that’s the reason, do it anyways. And two, try to pace yourself. Try to be gracious with yourself and others.

Joy Rochelle Murrieta was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts in 1986 and attended Crown College where she studied Music Performance and Christian studies. In this interview Joy was 31 years old. Joy identifies as half-Mexican, her mother is white and is from Colorado, and her father is Mexican. Joy’s family move around while she was growing, and she discusses some of her experiences in different parts of Massachusetts and Colorado. Joy opens up about the hardships she went through while growing up with her mother and sister having medical problems.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 09/22/2017
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Maryann Johnson

Chief Development Officer, Oakhill Community Development Corp

I think I always knew that I would work. I never thought about not working. But my parents also gave back to the community, and my grandmother did too. I feel that kind of inspired me to…work in the nonprofit world. My dad worked in human services, my mother worked in education. I think we were just raised to give back and be there for people.

Maryann Johnson was born on September 11th, 1985 in Salisbury, England, but raised in the small town of Bath, Maine. Maryann grew up in a sailor’s mansion with her parents, older brother and older sister. Following in her sister’s shadow, Maryann idolized her older sister growing up, spending her school vacations visiting her sister at college in New York. In 2003, Maryann began college at Clark University, majoring in nonprofit management with a minor in women’s studies. While at college, she met her now husband. Today they have young twin girls and are expecting their third child.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/19/2017
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Irma Leone

Retired Raytheon Quality Control Inspector; Born in Italy

I feel like how did I do it?  How did I get to this point, to be happy in this house, in this country, with the people around me, how did I do it?  But you see, I had a good man and I knew it.  Yes, it was love at first sight.  I can see him now like that first time.  The sun was at the door, at the back of him, and he had the military hat, the military uniform.  The fatigues, they called it. And the smile was like—how can you say?  An apparition. 

Irma Leone was born in Vicenza, Italy. In this interview she shares what it was like to meet and marry her American husband in Italy and then move to the United States leaving her friends and family to begin a new life in Massachusetts.  She raised three daughters and worked at Phalo Wire and Cable Corporation, Fab Tronic Coil Company, and became a quality control inspector at Raytheon. Although at times it was a challenge to learn the language and culture of a new country, she never regretted following her heart because, as she said, “I had a good man and I knew it.”

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Wed, 03/13/2019
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Bonita Keefe-Layden

Veteran, Ret Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves; CEO Rehabilitative Resources, Inc.

It was in 2003 when we started the war, when [President George W.]  Bush declared war [on Iraq] near St. Patrick’s Day, I think around the 19th [of March], and we were in country on the 23rd.  We had been at Fort Drum a couple of months.  I was with the 804th Medical Center which is the command and control of all medical units and we were in Kuwait.  The 804th Hospital Command.  They changed the name since I first started.  So my unit in country was in charge of all the medical aspects to the equipment, the professional staff, doctors, nurses, and the cleaning operations.  When I was deployed I was asked to be the medical regulating officer.  The regulating officer’s job is to coordinate all evacuation so I had myself and about seven other people [laughs] and some of those people were 19 and 20 years old and myself, and a major, and my enlisted group.  We coordinated all the ground ambulances in the area and the connection with the Air Force to evacuate and it was very stimulating and it was very rewarding.  It was tough because we were dealing with casualties.  We were dealing with all the amputations and we were dealing with at that time—I’m digressing a bit from your question, but at that time, the military was just implementing what they called “the golden hour” where it was believed that if you could get someone with severe trauma from the place of injury to level three care within an hour that you had a better chance of saving the life.  That was our mission and we did it.  We did it.  The only time we couldn’t is when people couldn’t tell us where they were.  [Laughs]  You might find that pretty amazing, but a lot of times people couldn’t tell us where they were even if they were on a road.  They didn’t have—GPS is pretty common now, but GPS was just beginning to come into use in 2003 so maybe one person in the convoy would have GPS and convoys get separated and spread out.  And these were young kids, 18, 19 years old.  We wanted to get to them obviously as fast as we could.   If you couldn’t give us a grid coordinate at least tell us what road you are on and the nearest town and the helicopter could follow that.  Convoys are pretty big so they could find a convoy.  We really implemented the golden hour rule and, of course, part of our job is letting the hospitals know they are coming and having the ambulances at the landing site to get them into the hospitals.  The golden hour included the telephone call, the launching of the helicopter, contacting the hospital, the ambulance to the landing field, and getting them to the emergency room.

Bonnie Keefe-Layden describes her experiences the Army Reserves and as a CEO of the Sturbridge-based Rehabilitative Resources Inc. She attained the rank of Colonel during her 33-year military career and was deployed to Iraq in 2003 where she was the medical regulating officer of the 804th Hospital Command.  While describing the responsibilities of the unit, she recalls the tragedies that she observed as well as proud moments striving to achieve transportation of injured personnel within “the golden hour” and first-time efforts evacuating injured to a ship, the U.S.N.S. Comfort.

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Thu, 06/08/2017
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Janet Hale

Nurse;Dean, UMass Medical School; Veteran, US Army Reserves, Ret.Colonel

It started out we were within two miles of an enemy prisoner of war camp that had 14,000 soldiers that had surrendered and then during the Shite uprising in Southern Iraq we started to get families and kids from Shatrah and Basrah that the infantry would bring down in the Chinook helicopters and what happened was the Republican Guard went in and were taking over the hospitals and the schools and the buildings and they were throwing out these patients.  So the infantry would bring them down and we took care of them.  We were pretty busy.  But it was good.  We lived in a tent.  It was pretty—you know, sometimes the tents would blow down, it would rain.  We were in a desert, but it would pour.  There was mud, there was grit everywhere.  But you just developed such a good relationship with the other 15 women in the tent.  Everybody eats together.  Even when the physicians weren’t on call, if there was a mass casualty they just put it out over the PA system and everybody would come and help.  It was really a cool bonding experience.  I remember when I went into a field hospital my mother said to me, “Jan, I can’t believe you’re going into a field hospital.  Remember you never even went to Girl Scout camp because you hated bugs and dirt and dust.”  [laughs]  You grow and change when you need the maturity.  So I look at it as a highlight of my life.  A really good experience.

Janet Hale discusses her experiences as a nurse in the United States Army Reserves.  She joined the Reserves in 1967 during the Vietnam War era and before retiring with the rank of Colonel she was deployed for the first Gulf War and mobilized for the second Gulf War. In addition to her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Janet went on to earn a master’s degree in management and a master’s degree in nursing as well as a Ph.D.

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Interview Date: 
Mon, 06/12/2017
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Phyllis Gallant

Nurse, Veteran, Navy WAVE, Carried flag for American Legion post 75 years

I went in the WAVES in 1944, and I spent my whole time in the hospital at Norfolk, Virginia, the Naval Hospital there where the ships come in there—the port. It was very—at times it was kind of hard to take, but you see these people coming in to be taken care of from other parts of the country and it’s heartbreaking a little bit but you kind of manage to get through it anyway.  [The wounded] came from combat from different places.  That’s where the ships came in; the hospital ships came in there.  I mean, we enjoyed some of the time that we were off.  But it was a little bit—seeing, doing the job we had to do, it was a little bit difficult seeing all the things that happened to them.  They’d come in from different areas and they’d be off the battlefield, and they’d come in with casts that were messy looking; they had to be changed, and all that, but I was able to take that OK. 

Phyllis Gallant was 95 when she was interviewed. After growing up in Holden and Worcester she went to nursing school at Holden hospital She and her sisters danced professionally in the area during her youth. She shares her memories of being a Navy WAVE during World War II and describes her work at the Norfolk Naval Hospital, the living arrangements, and recreation during her two-year involvement.  When she returned home she married and had four children. She is an active participant in the American Legion, carrying the flag for her post for 75 years, and still bowls in a league.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 11/19/2016
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