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.

Catherine Rajwani

Lawyer

I think it’s important for women to realize the commonality that we all share so that we can support each other rather than judge.

Catherine Rajwani was born in Worcester in 1973.  She attended Notre Dame and Columbia University and then law school. She and her husband currently work as lawyers in her mother’s law firm. In this oral history she discusses her parents and siblings, living in different parts of the country, and her travels outside the country. She explains her view on the importance of work-life balance and also her volunteer work with the Salvation Army and in a soup kitchen.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 04/08/2011
Interview Focus: 
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Rajwani

Mary Brunelle

College Librarian

I like being a librarian because I believe in the power of education and I don’t necessarily want to be a teacher in front of thirty students.  God bless people who do because we need good teachers, but that’s not for me so this is, this is a way to be involved in education and in Catholic education without actually being a teacher.  I really enjoy it.  I love working with the students and I’m very happy at my job and I think that that’s rare for people my age to actually say that.

Mary Brunelle was born in Franklin, Massachusetts in 1988. She moved to Worcester in 2000 to attend Assumption College and is currently still living in Worcester. Before moving to Worcester, she felt as though she was already familiar with the city since many of her family members, including her mom grew up in Worcester. In this interview, Mary discusses the strong impact of education. She originally attended Saint Joseph College in Connecticut, but later transferred to Assumption College as a junior.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 04/12/2011
Interview Focus: 
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Brunelle

Kathleen O'Connor

Lawyer; Owns law firm

One of the places where I think women—or where I had challenges -- was the law profession is not equalized between men and women and that’s also one of the reasons why I’m in my own business.  Men still dominate the legal profession within larger firms in particular.  I would say they, as a whole, make a lot more money, they have wives—they have wives to do their housekeeping, take care of their children and so forth so it’s very different working in an environment where you’re expected to work 70 hours a week.  When it’s the mother who has the children to go home to, it’s very different.  It’s what the expectations are, and especially if you’re a new lawyer, you’re expected to just be there as long as necessary, sometimes 11 o’clock at night.  If the client’s needs demanded it, you just had to do the work: weekends, Sunday mornings, and so during the time that I was working at that rate, even though I was so-called part-time because I was only working 45 hours, I would go home, sometimes eight o’clock at night and I had not seen my children since seven o’clock that morning.  So you do feel that your—the balance is out of balance when that occurs.  It’s always a constant rebalancing act. 

Kathleen O’Connor was born in the Elm Park area of Worcester in 1950, and has lived in Worcester for most of her life. Kathleen discusses her life and memories of growing up in Worcester. She describes how the city has changed over her life, including the closing and opening of stores, facilities, etc., as well as the future plans for the city, what she thinks of it, and what she recommends for the city. Kathleen explains her experience in education, describes how the educational system has changed from what it was, and how it has become more friendly towards women.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 03/14/2011
Interview Focus: 
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O'Connor

Audrey Silveri

Retired Director of the Nursing Program at Anna Maria College

Well, my mother was a teacher so I wanted to be a teacher and that was acceptable to my family. But when I was young I also thought I wanted to be a nurse, but I was just discouraged from doing that. Nursing is a very, very hard occupation and it’s a very dirty occupation. You deal with a lot of terrible stuff in nursing and so they discouraged me, so I went to become a teacher. But afterwards, after I had my children I just became very interested in being a nurse so I, I have the idea that things that you want to do in your childhood are really deep rooted and eventually you’ll do them, even if you don’t do them right away.

This interview focuses on the life of Audrey Silveri, a retired nurse and educator. Born in New York and raised in Massachusetts, Audrey has lived in the Northeast for her entire life. She attended the State University of New York, University of Virginia for graduate work, Assumption College for a BSN, Boston College for a MSN, and the University of Massachusetts/Amherst for her doctorate. Audrey met her husband while working at the Library of Congress and they were engaged after three months. They moved to Worcester in 1963 and raised three children.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/22/2010
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Silveri

Jennifer Stanovich

Executive Director of Holden Area Chamber of Commerce

See that was the tough thing.  Here I had this job that I absolutely adored, but I couldn’t travel.  Had a baby, you know, and, and that was when, you know, women were trying to have it all, and it’s really hard, and I desperately wanted to keep my job, and I also – but I also wanted to stay home so Tom McAn said well let’s see if we can make this work, and you can just be a consultant.  So for a year I tried working, and then I, you know, juggling the two, and to be honest, I just couldn’t do it.  Because the travel – I couldn’t travel, and I really wanted to be home, and I felt like I was doing neither job as well as I wanted to.  So I left Tom McAn, and stayed home for 13 years, which, which turned out to be great, you know what I mean?  That was exactly what I needed to do, and it was fabulous, but it was a wonderful job and I hated to leave it.  So – and now the job that I’m in now is part-time, and when I went back to work that is the perfect way to juggle family, and, and work.

Jennifer Stanovich was born in Holden, Massachusetts in 1959. Wanting to stay close to home, she attended Assumption College where she graduated with a degree in psychology. Jennifer married in 1986 and is the mother of two children. Jennifer participated in a very beneficial internship with United Way of Central Massachusetts while in college, and after graduating worked in public relations and communications at Thom McAn Shoes, Data General, and then returned to Thom McAn. Currently she is Executive Director of Holden Area Chamber of Commerce.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 11/17/2010
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Stanovich

Zelda Schwartz

Psychotherapist; Retired Director of Family Therapy at Jewish Family Services

there was an intellectual challenge always to being able to deal with large families and put the pieces together to see what would be the intervention that would help them begin to think of things in a new way. In other words, therapy is a way to help people find a new road map, so that they walk out of the office feeling a little bit differently about their issues. So I like the noise, and I like the challenge, and I love being with all sorts of different people, and I liked hearing their voices and trying to rearrange the voices so that they could hear each other. And most of the time when people come in to therapy …  not listening to each other, not knowing how to understand one another …  that becomes a challenge to find a way to make everybody’s voice count.

Zelda Schwartz was born in 1939 and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts.  She is a psychotherapist and retired Director of Family Therapy at the Jewish Family Services.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/09/2010
Interview Focus: 
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Schwartz

Karen Jean White

Dance Teacher and Owner of Dance Studio

We do nursing home shows and local things and community things, senior residences and we still do....so you get to practice your dance but dance is a performing art and if you don’t perform you don’t get the experience and the confidence developing it. I call it old dolls and new dolls and it’s one of the greatest joys of all. Teaching and being able to bring – I have students right through adult students who dance with me, little ones and their parents of the little ones. Oh they love it and this is great because to see the human interaction that goes on, the happiness, that’s just key so it’s really great. People that can’t move and then they’re watching other people that can, particularly the small ones that are so fresh and live.

Karen Jean White was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1948 and currently resides in West Boylston. Dancing since the age of four, Karen has devoted her life to the art. Finding babysitting to be a dull job, she began her own studio in her basement at the age of 13. She now owns the Karen Jean White School of Dance on West Boylston Street in West Boylston where she has been for 39 years. In this interview Karen elaborates on her career in dance and those who have impacted her life. Growing up in a loving home, she is extremely grateful for her childhood.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/19/2010
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White

Jeanne Tolomeo

Geriatric Care Manager

I would say to women it’s never too late to go to college, never too late to think you can’t change a career, no matter what your age is, there’s always some network or something that you can find either by volunteering or by connecting to work in a job or in education to bring you to another level. I just think you can never ever think no matter how old you are that ... you’re stuck in a rut and you can’t do anything else. I think you can always find an avenue to go, and it might take you lots of different jobs and lots of different places, but it’s where you end up that’s really, really important. So, never give up.

Jeanne Tolomeo was born in 1948 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She attended West Springfield High School and after graduating moved on to become a restaurant manager. At the age of forty, she attended Assumption College as a member of the Continuing Education Program and earned her college degree, which allowed her to pursue a career as a geriatric care manager. Jeanne currently works at Fletcher, Tilton, and Whipple in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/29/2010
Interview Focus: 
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Tolomeo

Jane Fine

Real estate Business Owner

I think every woman should be prepared to do what they want to do.  Don’t listen to anybody else and to also sorta feel out different opportunities.  When I was young my father would say, "Why don’t you be a dental hygienist?" He never said, "Why don’t you be a dentist?"  My brother was gonna be a doctor but I would be the dental hygienist.  Women aren’t there anymore, thank God. But there weren’t many role models when I grew up of women doing that.  I mean I do remember an orthodontist who was a woman who was one of my father’s friends.  But he never said, "Gee why don’t you do that?" The thing is, I think women need to be exposed. I like that program where women go to work with their fathers. I think the exposure and somehow I think in high school if there’s a way that kids can get exposed to different type of things at that time -- of fields and interests that they know what they want and go from there. 

Jane Fine was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 17, 1944, and attended New York University and Adelphi University where she received her Master’s degree in education. She began her real estate business of Fine Properties Inc. during her first marriage when she needed to make money to support her three children. After her divorce from her first husband, Jane moved to Worcester with her three children where she lived for many years on Berry Road and in a condo at Salisbury West for fifteen years after that.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/15/2010
Interview Focus: 
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Fine

Pamela Reidy

Director of Mission, Notre Dame du Lac; teacher; Founder of Spirit of Hope

I started going to Haiti with students to have experiences working with the poor and that was over twenty years ago. When the [2010 Haiti ] earthquake happened -- to the beauty of Facebook, which I think is a support -- many of my students came back to me and said, "We know you still have to be in Haiti and what's going on? What can we do?" And so last January, my former stduents and I formed an organization called Spirit of Hope and we fund people to go and work in Haiti.

Pamela Jane Reidy was born on Easter Sunday 1950 in Worcester, Massachusetts where she resided with her family until the age of five when she moved to Sutton, MA. At the age of eighteen she entered college and pursued a degree in Education from Worcester State College. She went on to obtain a Master's in Theology from Assumption College. This led her to a teaching career at Notre Dame Academy, an all-girls' school in Worcester. After many years of teaching she left the field and is currently Director of Mission at Notre Dame du Lac. This job allows Pam to spend more time serving others.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/23/2010
Interview Focus: 
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Reidy

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