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.

Anne Kruse

Convention Sales Manager, DCU Center of Worcester

I was a single mom with two little kids, two little boys, and I knew that God had a plan for me that was better than where I was or what I was doing. I would see business women driving down the street while I was pushing along my babies in carriages and I would think, “Geez, I thought I was gonna be a business woman,” you know what I mean? And I would see, you know, people my age buying houses and I thought I was going to have a house and I thought I was gonna have a picket fence, you know and all that stuff [laughs]. And I always had faith in the fact that it would really happen.

Anne Kruse was born in 1952 to Grace and Daniel Sullivan. She grew up in the Greendale section of Worcester, Massachusetts with her mother, father, older sister, and four younger brothers. She lives in Worcester and went to school here, and has lived in Worcester, Massachusetts all her life. She never went to college, but worked hard and built her life up from there, even though she did encounter some obstacles along the way. Some of Anne’s most defining characteristics are how optimistic and faithful she is.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/14/2012
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Kruse

Melissa Gibson

Pet Store Owner;Barrel Racer and Rodeo

I barrel race with the National Barrel Race Association. And I rodeo. Barrel racing is a clover leaf pattern, so you come around. You go through one barrel, another barrel, a third barrel and the back. You’re on a horse, and you’re going as fast as the horse can go and the tightest turns you can make, and you stay on. [Laughs] I’m actually state champion this year and won the state year end also for high points. So, I’m looking forward for this season. I’ve got three horses to ride so we’ll see.

Melissa Gibson was born in 1972. She was raised in Stow, Massachusetts, by her mother and father. From the ages eight to fourteen Melissa lived on a farm where she developed a deep passion for animals. After high school, Melissa married Bob Gibson, Jr. During the twenty-two years of their marriage she gave birth to three children. While pregnant with her third child she began attending night classes at Fisher College where she received her Associate Degree in Business and Accounting.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 04/16/2012
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Gibson

Matilde Castiel

Spanish Interview -- Médica, UMass Hospital and Medical School; Dirige la Casa de Héctor Reyes;Lugar de origen: Cuba

Nací en Cuba hasta los siete… siete años, seis y medio… siete años y después vine a los Estados Unidos… en un programa que se llamaba "Peter Pan" la expedición de Pedro Pan.

Yo no hablaba inglés y fui a la escuela sin hablar inglés…. eso era muy difícil y después cuando mis padres vinieron era mejor para mí pero era más difícil para mis padres porque era una cultura nueva, nuevo lenguaje.

La Dra. Matilde Castiel nació en Cuba el 13 de noviembre de 1954. En esta entrevista ella menciona cómo con tan sólo seis años y medio, ella llegó a los Estados Unidos junto a su hermano mayor y muchos otros niños en lo que fue la Operación Pedro Pan. Una vez en este país, ella tuvo que ser acogida por una familia hasta que sus padres lograron inmigrar a Estados Unidos. La Dra. Castiel realizó sus estudios universitarios y de medicina en la Universidad de California, en San Francisco. Ahora vive en Holden junto a su esposo, Aaron Mendel, y sus dos hijos.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/23/2011
Interview Language: 
Spanish
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Castiel

Matilde Castiel

English Translation -- Physician, UMass Medical School; Director, Héctor Reyes House; Born in Cuba

I was born in Cuba and I remained there until the age of ... six and a half to seven years and then I came to the United States in a program called … Operation Peter Pan.

[It was difficult] because when I came I was only six and a half or seven years old and had to leave my parents in Cuba, and I came with a woman that I did not know. I didn’t speak English and I went to school without knowing how to speak English. So, this was very difficult. After, when my parents came things became better for me. However, it was more difficult for them because they were now living in a new culture, a new language.

Dr. Matilde Castiel was born in Cuba on November 3, 1954. In this interview she discusses how as a young girl she participated in "Operation Peter Pan," which brought her and her older brother, along with many other children, from Cuba to the United States. She then had to live with a foster family until her parents were able to immigrate to the United States. Dr. Castiel did her undergraduate studies at the University of California in San Francisco, and later earned a medical degree from that same institution.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/23/2011
Interview Language: 
Spanish
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Castiel

Lorraine Connolly

Retired computer programmer

I guess you just have to set your goals in life and stick to them, no matter what your goal is. You don't have to be a movie star or the President of the United States, but you know, decide what you want to do--stick with it.

Lorraine Connolly was born in Worcester in 1931. She resided with her parents and siblings in the lower Franklin Street area and went to area schools including North High School. She attended computer programming school shortly after the birth of her daughter and has worked steadily ever since. She describes the Worcester she knew and how it differs from today's Worcester.  

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Interview Date: 
Fri, 08/12/2011
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Connolly

Wilma Sanchez

Licensed Addiction Drug Counselor

I love what I do. I just have a passion. I don’t know, I guess God knew what He was doing. I have a passion and a way of talking to people that motivates them. I’ve been pretty good. I have had some sad stories, people that go back out and they usually get to me. But I don’t give up. They didn’t give up on me, why should I give up on them? What you’ve heard is just a partial part of my story and my life. It’s no story, it’s my life, reality. Sometimes it makes me sad, but it makes me happy to know where I’m at today. My goal now is to write a book.

Wilma Sanchez was born in Puerto Rico where she lived with her father’s family until the age of six. At that time she began living with her mother and she describes episodes of neglect and sexual abuse. In this interview Wilma explains how she began using drugs, became involved with men who sold drugs, had two sons, was diagnosed HIV positive, and had a relationship with a female friend. Eventually her drug habit led her to prostitution and a jail sentence. Wilma entered a drug treatment program and overcame her drug habit.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/24/2011
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Sanchez

Carrie Johnson

Business Owner, Author, Professor

It helped me realize that…it helped me feel like I was worth something. You know, I had 65 people depending upon me for their paychecks, and making the decisions that I had to make to grow Sparkle Cleaning and keep that growing, really instilled something in me and helped me grow as a person. So I wrote a book about my experience and it’s called From the Pits to the Palace. It’s not really a rags to riches story, it is more personal growth.

Carrie Johnson grew up in Natick and Framingham. Her father worked in a hat factory and her mother cleaned houses. She married after graduating high school but moved to California after divorce. She went to college and became a public relations person for a community gangs program. In the interview she discusses her involvement with drugs, her sons, her job as a one of the first African-American reporters for the Metro West Daily News,  then being hired by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, and her cleaning company.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/25/2011
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Johnson

May White

Descendent of Clara Barton; 103 years old

Well, I just graduated from [Oxford] high school and I went to business school in Worcester. And, then I worked at State Mutual. Then I got married. And at that time, you couldn’t work when you were married. Of course I went right through the Depression ………… to go to the bank one day and the next [day] a man would be sitting on the street selling apples.  This business that’s going on now [in Washington] bothers me.  Boy, I went through that and it was awful.  And, so that’s what happened there.  So I got a job.  I went to work.  First thing I did was buy a car. 

May O. White was born July 8, 1908 in Oxford, Massachusetts. She is a descendant of  the Pilgrims who came from England on the Mayflower and settled initially in Salem, MA, and later to establish Oxford. She is proud of her family history and historical value of the houses they built in the 19th century. Being a member of the Historical Commission in Oxford, she is helping to establish a Historic District, which designation would preserve these homes. May and her family worked in Worcester, taking advantage of the railroad connection.

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Interview Date: 
Thu, 07/28/2011
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White

Ann Witkes

Hairdresser, Born in 1914

In those days, the woman didn’t have a charge account in their name. But I got it, I got it. They say, “Well, it’s a woman --give me your husband’s name,” and I said, “No I’m not going to give you my husband’s name. The business is mine; the business hairdressing is not my husband’s, it’s mine. I’m the boss so why I can’t have it?” Well, they think about it and I got it. And when I tell my friends, “I got a charge account,” they asked, “How did you do it?” And I said “I just tell them-- it’s not my husband’s, it’s mine. I work, I built it, and why can’t I have a charge account?” My husband said, “You have a charge account?!!” [exclaims] And I said, “Big deal, I said, I’ll pay for it from my own money.”

Ann R. Witkes was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1914 and attended Ash St. Elementary School and Commerce High School in Worcester. Ann spent all her life in Worcester, except for the last 20 years in Florida. She returned to Worcester as a widow, to the Eisenberg Assisted Living Residence a few years ago, to be close to her family. Ann worked as a hairdresser until she retired. She began at her father’s barber shop in Worcester.

Interviewer: 
Interview Date: 
Mon, 07/11/2011
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Witkes

Laura Caswell

Computer Programmer

One of the things I've always known about myself is that I did want to grow up and be a mommy. I had a tough time when the kids left ‘cause I was like, “The only job wanted is gone.” [laughs]  Everything for me was go to college, get married, have kids and everything else was secondary for me though I—that’s what I always wanted to do is raise a family so I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to do it. I know a lot of women who have to take work in jobs they don’t want to do in order to put food on the table. I mean it’s one thing if you’ve got a job that you enjoy or that you want to do, but just to work to make ends meet is tough.

Laura Caswell was born in White Plains, New York in 1961 to a Roman Catholic family of Irish and Italian descent. Upon finishing her first year of college at Rutgers University, she learned she was pregnant and made the decision to abandon her studies and marry her boyfriend at the age of 19. Laura and her husband had three sons. At the age of 37, Laura and her husband divorced and she began working as a computer programmer. She is currently employed at the Information Technology center at Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts as a computer programmer.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 05/02/2011
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Caswell

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