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.

Katherine Abbott

Executive Director Tower Hill Botanical Garden
Interview Date: 
Sun, 11/10/2013
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Abbott

Marianne Felice

Chair of Pediatrics, UMass Medical School

And I think of the department that I ran as a garden...I think of all the faculty that I’ve recruited as a flower. I could have had all roses…real flashy, but they have thorns, roses do. So you can have all tulips, but I think of the faculty in the department as a different kind of flower. Some need lots of sunshine, some need lots of water, some are going to be okay with benign neglect. They don’t even need you.

Dr. Marianne Elizabeth Felice was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1943 and works at UMass Medical School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. She and her husband, John Giles, moved to Shrewsbury in 1998 when Marianne was offered the chair of pediatrics. Marianne has devoted her time to her job, advocacy efforts, and her husband. Networks of women have played an important role in her life and experiences, and she continues to value these relationships today. In this interview, Marianne reflects upon the struggles and joys of her life and experiences within the medical field.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/04/2013
Interview Focus: 
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Felice

Kathryn Tsandikos

Co-owner, Coney Island Hot Dogs

[Coney Island] does [have an ipact on the community] and I that’s why I love it, you know the fact that my grandparents had it, the fact that my father worked here, the fact I can be here and kind of carry it on the best I can. I mean people still talk about my grandmother, and she’s the one who should be giving an oral history because she was remarkable. I don’t hold a candle to her and you know maybe someday I will, but she was just incredible. And they did an obituary for her in the Worcester paper, she was just like a really unique woman so, you know that’s what’s neat being able to keep that going.

The interview of Kathryn Tsandikos focuses primarily on religious background, ethnic roots, and her present day occupation. Kathryn expressed a major aspect throughout her life was religion because of its prominence in her family. Her father is a Greek Orthodox Priest at St. Spyridon’s in Worcester, MA and also Co-owns the business that Kathryn runs today. She expressed that having her father involved deeply in the church shaped her life in various ways.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/18/2013
Interview Focus: 
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Tsandikos

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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Kohin

Melinda Boone

Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools

When I came [to Worcester], I initiated a State of the Schools annual message to the community, where I talk about what our focus is, what we’re successful in accomplishing and where our greatest needs are going forward, and we know that we have to prepare all of our students for today and tomorrow’s jobs—today’s jobs—tomorrow’s jobs. And so what does the workforce look like? We know also that a higher performing school system is certainly an enhancement to economic development within the city. So we want to be able to showcase our best and brightest schools and students as part of the economic development, but my overarching goal is to ensure that every child is college and career ready, and I say both because when you look at entrance requirement for jobs, and the entrance requirements for colleges, they are very much the same now. So gone are the days of being able to separate the two…....But additionally, you know, I respect the parent’s right to choose, whether, you know, public, private, parochial, or charter. I want to position the Worcester Public Schools at a place where they will want to choose us…

Dr. Melinda J. Boone is an African American woman born in 1959, from Norfolk, Virginia who became Worcester's Superintendent of Schools in 2009. Much of her identity originates from her perseverance through struggles over the course of her life. These struggles include racial prejudice throughout her education, as well as her being a woman in a job many of her colleagues assumed was male-oriented. Though she certainly had difficulties and troubling times with her family, including the loss of her husband, both her family and faith provide sources of inspiration and comfort for Melinda.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/28/2013
Interview Focus: 
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Boone

Erin Arvizu

Owner of Wild Orchid Baby

I guess I think a lot of women wish they had the type of work-life balance that I have. After I had my daughter I worked part time three days a week and now I have my own business which I work six days a week now which is crazy, but I have the flexibility to have my daughter here and to do what I need to do.  I would just like to encourage women if that’s what you want out of life to go and get it. It’s not going to be easy but you can, if I can do it.

Erin Arvizu was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1983 and attended Framingham State University. She lives on Mill Street in Worcester with her husband, Philippe Arvizu and their daughter Olivia. She is currently pregnant with their second child, a boy. With a wide variety of jobs under her belt, years of experience, and great passion, this past year, she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of opening her own business. She succeeded in 2012 when she opened Wild Orchid Baby, located in the Piccadilly Pub Plaza on Shrewsbury Street.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 03/25/2013
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Arvizu

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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Rafferty

Beatriz Patino

Director, Cross-Cultural Center, Assumption College

. Like, I think I’ve done the best kind of with what I was given and what I had and what was put before me and I’ve always tried to kind of challenge myself and, you know, try new things. Like going to college was one thing, but then even doing the Peace Corps -- like when I wanted to do the Peace Corps my family kind of flipped out a little bit because--this is a direct quote from my family. This is in no way my--this is my family’s reaction to me going into the Peace Corps: “That’s something only rich white kids do because they don’t want to work.” I was like “Okay,” you know? But, I think my biggest regret in college was not studying abroad, so I wanted a way to do that and I felt like what better time or what--when could I actually have an opportunity to do some kind of work and service has always been a really important part of, you know, my life. I did a lot of service work while I was in college. Also I worked with, you know, I worked at some of the daycares like at – working with children and at different facilities and schools. And then I also did a lot of HIV/AIDS prevention work, so I worked with families affected and infected with HIV and AIDS and--so like I always did a lot of service while I was in college and even before that in high school. But, I think it was a difficult thing to do because my family did not want me to go and there was a lot of pressure and there still is, being the only person in my family who’s gone to college. So, you know, like I think financially my family expected me to, you know, finish college and get a job and help them, you know? That was kind of like the expectation and I think it kinda still is. But, so I think they thought I was being very selfish. Like, I mean, even if I’m thinking like, “People enter the Peace Corps that sounds like the most unselfish thing” but to my family they just couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave. They were like “People need help here; why can’t you just do it here?” and, you know, I think it’s just--they just didn’t understand, you know? But, I was happy I did it and I think they can see it now, like later on, but I think it was difficult and nobody’s ever left the family like that, like for so long. I mean, I didn’t come home at all those two and half years.

Beatriz Patino was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1978. Her mother is from Puerto Rico and her father is from Mexico City, Mexico. She is currently the director of the Cross-Cultural Center at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, after having served as a resident director at the college for a number of years. Beatriz discusses how she always went to schools where the majority of her classmates where female and ethnically similar to her. It was a bit of a culture shock for her when she came to college where many more students were white.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 11/29/2012
Interview Focus: 
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Patino

Kerri Aleksiewicz Melley

Financial Planner, Dancer

It is really hard being a full time working mom.  And it just gets to the point where you have to be okay not finishing everything.  I, you know, which is hard for me because I was the type of person that everything had to be organized and completed and done perfectly and this and that but you just don’t have the time anymore.  So you have to be able to sort of – and also with the work that I do, it is not a traditional nine to five job either.  I make my own hours; I meet clients sometimes on the weekends, and sometimes in the evening.  So it is a matter of your time and this is my family time, this is my work time, and being able to respect your own time, because everyone will take advantage of your time if you let them so it is a matter of just deciding what is important and taking the time for each of those priorities.

Kerri Aleksiewicz Melley was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1972 to Charles and Mary Aleksiewicz.  Kerri lived a lively childhood growing up in Tatnuck Square with a tight knit family.  As a child she danced at Charlotte Kleins and attended Christ the King Church.  Kerri attended the Bancroft school for four years of high school.  She then went on to study at Connecticut College.  After studying at Connecticut College she moved to Boston to pursue her love for dance and art.  While living in Boston she met her husband, Neal Melley.  They moved to Roch

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/12/2012
Interview Focus: 
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Melley

Grace McLaughlin

Mother, grandmother, former secretary, bookbinder

I think the costs have been—what’s that saying that they say? Priceless [laughs]. I have—I don’t know if this is what you’re getting at, but I don’t have any regrets. I think my path that I’ve chosen has been a wonderful path and I attribute that to being with a wonderful man...that I married, and having wonderful children so I think the benefits have been really are very stable, rewarding and kind of a fun adventure. Granted we had some, you know, some—it wasn’t all wonderful. We had some trials and tribulations, but overall I think it’s been a wonderful path.

Grace McLaughlin was born in 1924 in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was the last of four girls born to Benjamin and Isabelle Vinti. Grace’s father, Benjamin came to the United States from Italy and later sent for his wife. After settling in Brooklyn, New York, Benjamin and Isabelle made the move to Worcester, where their fourth daughter Grace was born. Grace recalls living in a close-knit community where most people were of Italian descent. Being of strict Italian descent, it was only natural that she and her three sisters were expected to date and marry Italian men.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/17/2012
Interview Focus: 
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McLaughlin

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