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.

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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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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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
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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
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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
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Andrea Goodman

Computer Science Professor

Now part of the reason my life went as well as it did was because I created my own business. At the time I worked at Digital I’m sure I would of have hit a glass ceiling if I had stayed in the corporate environment.  I only didn’t because it was my own business and it’s still my own business. But I would say to women, you know, what’s made me successful is always doing what I was passionate about and finding a way to work at something that I enjoyed and I think that can be true for anybody, not just women. I also think that if you don’t want to get outsourced to India become a plumber. But other than that, to get as much education as you feel you want and to just go for whatever you want. Just assume you’re going to be able to do well at it.

Andrea Goodman lived in Chicago, attended college at the University of Illinois Champaign Havna and moved to Worcester in 1974 after she got married.  She has been living there ever since and says it’s a great place.  She has three children two twin boys and a daughter.  Currently she teaches computer science at Assumption College but she talks about many other jobs she had prior to this one pertaining to the business world.  In this interview she also talks about the hardships she went through to be able to get a better high paying job as a woman, and all the diff

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/10/2012
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Goodman

Nellie Toney

Program Coordinator of the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Program in the UMASS Medical School; Nipmuc Tribe
Interview Date: 
Sun, 10/21/2012
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Amy Gazin-Schwartz

Professor of Anthropology at Assumption College

So, the most difficult transition, it took me maybe most of my adult life was to—even though I tell you this whole story about how I grew up in a family which truly encouraged me to be myself and had no sort of set idea of what as a woman I was allowed to do, and I went to college in the same type of environment—it was to learn to trust myself. And to not always question whether I was good enough at what I was doing. It took most of my life to figure that out. So that was the biggest learning curve I had to go through. A transition to being a mother was not actually that easy. I mean it’s hard to go from not having a kid to having a kid who is there 24 hours a day and depends on you. So that was a transition but it was okay. The transition to being married was not big once we had decided that we were just done. We knew we were going to be married so…not to say we always got along, but the commitment was such that it didn’t matter if we were fighting. It was, that was it we knew we were going to be together for the long haul.

Amy Gazin-Schwartz was born in Troy, New York in 1952. After her father graduated from college and got a job in Massachusetts, she moved to Natick, Massachusetts and later Duxbury, Massachusetts where she enjoyed both elementary and high school, constantly reading and exploring the outdoors. Amy discusses the importance of developing oneself freely and becoming whoever we are destined to be. The development of self is something she still encourages young women to recognize in growing up.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/13/2012
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Sharon McLaughlin

Owner, College Admissions Counseling Business

I love doing what I do because I get to meet with students and talk to them about what their career goals and college plans are—help them find the college that they’re going to be comfortable at and help them be able to afford it. You know talk them into different scenarios and help them along the way. It’s nice to see kids go and really kind of blossom in college. You know, the ones that the parents worry about, “He or she is too shy to do this” or not going to adjust well to living out of state or taking care of themselves and they come back in December and say, “I can’t believe what a different kid this is” [laughter]. So, that’s where I get my fulfillment.

Sharon McLaughlin was born in 1958 in Worcester, MA and attended Burncoat Senior High School. Her father was a professor at Worcester State College and her mother a homemaker. Sharon runs her own college admissions consulting business which was inspired through her father’s love of education along with her own passionate interest in adult education. In this interview, Sharon discusses some of the struggles she encountered in her career and personal life. She gives insight on finding what you love to do and the emotional adversity she has faced with an ill boyfriend and aging parents.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/16/2012
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Sarah Kelly

Owner, Worcester Academy of Music

Women, a lot of us deal with self-esteem issues just for a million reasons, and just gaining that confidence and who you are, what you are capable of doing. Know that you are capable of being anything you want to be. I mean that’s a message for everyone, but I think especially women. Because I think we get kind of pushed in certain directions. “Oh no, you need to stay home, and raise a family. Get married. Raise a family.” Or, “No you can only be a secretary.

Sarah Kelly was born in 1979 in Texas, and in 2004 moved to Worcester. Sarah had studied music all through her life, and became a major in flute. After working in the music business, Sarah moved to Worcester to open up the Worcester Academy of Music. In this interview, Sarah discusses the challenges and advantages of her music business in Worcester. Sarah had studied music all through her life, and in college pursued a flute major. From there she worked in the music business, but after the economic downturn decided to be her own boss.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 02/28/2012
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