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.

Susan Sweeney

Professor, College of the Holy Cross; Former President Worcester County Poetry Association

I sort of feel what happened in my poems, I write about hurt, and I wonder maybe—and sadness, especially hurt in my poems—because other people in my family couldn’t.  I think that’s why I write or why I have things to write about because I’m feeling [what] other people are not able to express, but also I’m expressing things for them.

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney was born in 1958 in Hagerstown, Maryland. She attended Mount Holyoke College and earned an MFA in poetry and a Ph.D in American Literature from Brown University. Susan lived in North Brookfield for a short time and moved to Worcester to have the opportunity to become an active member of the community. She is a former president of the Worcester County Poetry Association and was on the marketing committee for the Worcester Women’s History Project and the dedicated editor of their newsletter.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 11/12/2015
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Ann Starbard

Goat Cheese Farmer, Crystal Brook Farm

I did work with goats with Heifer Project so I got familiar with that animal when I worked on the farm in Rutland. So that was my initial exposure. I was born and raised with dairy cows, worked with cows all through college. We milked cows here for years and years. What got me into goats as my current profession is that I wanted to make cheese. I didn’t want to work off the farm, I wanted to work on the farm and we were milking cows at the time so I was actually looking into making cow cheese. So I went around to the few cheese makers that were around here at that point in time, and one person that I knew, she was milking goats and making goat cheese. So I went and visited her just to see that aspect. And as fate would have it she wanted to sell her business, she had about 30-35 goats and the cheese-making equipment and a small business set up. So, it was, in many ways, it was more attractive to buy her business and bring everything here and sort of just go from there. And so that’s what I did and that is how I landed into goats.

Ann Starbard is a 53-year-old woman who was originally born in Pennsylvania, but found her way up to Worcester County due to her farming skills. This Penn State graduate had grown up on a dairy farm her whole life and when she was ready, moved up to Sterling, MA, in order to find her career in goat cheese making on Crystal Brook Farm. She is a very uplifting and always laughing kind of person, who has a real calling for animals of all kinds; however, goats seem to be her favorite. She spent seven years of her life working for St.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/13/2015
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Starbard

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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Purnima Vepa Jain

Director of Finance and Business Support at Reliant Medical Group

At the end of the day, although I don’t touch a patient directly, I know my job here is to support people and those that work with the patient. For me, obviously, they are my customers. It’s doing what I can to help them do the best thing for the patient. Right? So, there is that indirect link back to the patient, and that’s what we are in this business for. It’s very interesting and gratifying at the end of the day.

Purnima Vepa Jain was born in West Bengal, India in 1975. She moved to Worcester, MA in 2000 and works as the director of finance and business support at Reliant Medical Group in Worcester. She has been with the company for 15 years, beginning as a financial analyst and moving up over 15 years to her current position. Purnima is also married and the mother of a six and a half year old son.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 11/04/2015
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Francesca Harris

Human Resources Professional, UMass Memorial Hospital

I would say that you should surround yourself with a great support system, and not be afraid to pursue what you feel passionate about.  I kind of like laugh to myself when I say that because,  every day I sort of struggle with that, too, because there’s a lot that I’m passionate about and,  it’s hard to just stay focused and go in this one direction. You also have a lot of things to think about, like supporting a family and—but I think that you can find a balance between being secure financially and supporting your family, but also being able to do what you really love. And I would encourage anybody to—women, men, anybody who just feels passionate about something to pursue that even if it means that you might have to do that in addition to something else, which is kind of what I’m doing right now. So [laughs] working in two different places, but I feel really passionate about what I’m doing so I’m just trying to find the balance there. 

Francesca Harris was born on Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in 1978. She grew up in Winthrop, MA and graduated from Winthrop High School. She moved on to get her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Westfield State College. Francesca wanted her children to grow up in a suburban-like area, resulting in her and her husband’s move to West Boylston. Francesca discusses her time in college, after college, and today, working at nonprofit organizations like the American Heart Association, Girls Inc., and the Boy Scouts of America.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 12/02/2015
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Sherri Glenn

Court Officer, Worcester District Court

I had this one gentleman come in, he was homeless, came into the courthouse. He wore overalls. He had something in every pocket. He had a jean jacket with pockets—everything had pockets. Everything he owned was on him. He had a beard down to here, a walking stick. No hygiene, you know, he lived on the street. It was raining; it was wet. He smelled. You know, it was just horrible.  And the people I work with, some of the people were just like, “Oh, I can’t take this. I can’t do it.” Like, right in front of the person. And this is a human being. First of all, it’s embarrassing, and I remember I took the wand, and I was like, “Sir, come over here,” and I said, “Let me see your jacket.” I was going through his jacket. I’m going through all this stuff, and this is what he owned. It’s nothing to us, but this is what he owned—his possessions—and it meant stuff to him. So, I took it, and I put it in a little box, and I told him, “I’m putting everything in here. Here is a ticket for it.I promise you will get this back.” And I didn’t make a big deal out of it. He goes and does his whatever he had to do in court and about an hour later, he leaves. I give him his box and things. He comes back the next day.  Here’s this homeless guy, was living on the street, like not near the courthouse, I don’t know where it was in Worcester. He walked all the way back that day just to thank me for treating him like a human being. And I was like, "Why wouldn’t I?"

Sherrie Glenn was born in Rhode Island, but has lived in Worcester, Massachusetts for about 20 years. At 43, she currently works as a court officer at the Worcester District Court. In this interview, she shares many stories from her past, touching on her struggles with coming out as a lesbian, working her way through the criminal justice system, finding love, and having children. She is a determined role model with a tough exterior, but discusses very emotional stories of her experiences with her own parents.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/21/2015
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Christine Corley

Audiologist

Probably the most amazing experience I can think of was when I was at Children's [Hospital] and I was in when a CI [cochlear implant] got activated. It was a little kid. I think he was 26 months, and his CI got activated and his mom started talking and everyone in the room was crying and it was pretty amazing. 

Dr. Christine Corley was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. She grew up in Reading, Massachusetts with her parents, two sisters, and brother. Dr. Corley is affiliated with Worcester because it is where her job is located. She is employed at the Hearing and Balance Center of New England, as an audiologist. Dr. Corley received her undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts and attended graduate school at Northeastern University. It was at Northeastern University where she attained her doctoral degree of audiology. Dr.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/03/2015
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Kathryn Calo

Partner, Bowditch and Dewey Attorneys

I would probably tell them to not be afraid to speak up whether it’s for yourself or someone else about an issue no matter what. And then also not to be afraid to take risks because I think a lot of—at least I feel like a lot of women are—we’re not risk takers. And I don’t know what it is, whether we are afraid to fail or we are afraid that we are not good enough. I’m not sure. But I don’t think you should be afraid to take a risk because even if you don’t succeed you’re learning something from it. And again, speaking up because I think that unless you can give yourself a voice, nobody else is going to give you one.

Kathryn Anne Calo was born in 1982. She’s the second of four children and is extremely close to her family. After graduating from Medfield High School in 2000 Kathryn went on to get her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Endicott College, graduating in 2004. Kathryn continued her education at New England School of Law in Boston.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/26/2015
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Vanessa Bumpus

Exhibition Coordinator, Worcester Historical Museum

I would say don’t try to do everything.  Do what you know you can do well and do it to the best of your ability. You don’t need to be the women who has a job, and raises children, and plays sports on the weekends, and cooks gourmet meals, can fix her own car, and you know fixes the toilet when its clogged [laughs] and do all these things. You don’t need to have to do everything. If you can do one thing well and find out how you can use that skill to help others, to help your family, to help people who don’t have access to that, then I think you’re successful. It’s all about how you feel about it and how you can use that skill to help others feel just as proud as you are. That’s how I raise my kids and think of success.

Vanessa Bumpus is an exhibition coordinator at the Worcester Historical Museum.  She was born in1975 in New York City.  She attended Marymount Manhattan College for her undergraduate degree and the University of Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for graduate school.  After getting married to her husband, Joseph, she had two children.   Vanessa tells of life growing up in New York and her move to Massachusetts as a teenager.  She also discusses how her family pushed her to succeed in life, which led her to many career opportunities including interning for David

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/13/2015
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Melanie Bonsu

Girl Scouts Administrator

Again, nothing is permanent and you are responsible for your own happiness. So I have to focus on that and I can’t wallow in misery when I have two other people that I am responsible for, and I don’t want to be a poor role model for them. I don’t want them to see work is stressing my mom out, “Oh my god, I don’t want to get a job when I’m older.” Because I don’t want them to think that life is tough. I don’t want them to think I’m weak either. So that’s my biggest—it’s not the best thing in the world, but I try not to be emotionally upset around them, and they’re always around.

Melanie Bonsu is a thirty-four-year-old bi-racial woman who has spent the majority of her life in the Worcester area. She loves Worcester and states it is a big city with a small town feel.  Her father is from Ghana and her mother is from Philadelphia, PA.  Melanie has a close relationship with her parents to this day and relies on them for a lot of support. She had her first child when she was a senior in college and moved back to Worcester for the support of her parents.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/06/2015
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