Politics/Community Involvement

In addition to a traditional focus on the public realm of governance and power structures, this theme should also reflect a feminist understanding of “the personal as political.” We are interested in women’s opinions, values, and activities as they relate to a broad sphere of social relations.

Hanna Solska

Professor in Poland; former Executive Director, International Center of Worcester; Manager of Patient Relations, Saint Vincent Hospital, MetroWest Medical Center

Well, I didn’t really choose, [laughs] I was forced to choose. If I had stayed on my original path, then I would be professor of law by now, teaching. But you learn to adjust, I guess. That’s a plus. You learn how to adjust to different circumstances.  Suddenly you are dropped in the middle of something—somewhere you’ve never been. And I think you just learn to adjust. And I think compromise, adjustment—that’s what it taught me.  Cons, of course, I wish [laughs] I could have stayed in Poland. But there was huge political unrest in Poland.  That was one of major reasons why I left.  I didn’t want my children to go through this. So, I don’t know how it would have been in 1980. That was solidarity movement in Poland and the whole of Europe was a lot of different movements—political movements. So, that was reason why I left and who knows what I’d be doing there if I stayed. But here, definitely that was challenge. But I think it made me stronger. I couldn’t rely on my mom anymore, which I did a lot, and my grandmother. So, now I was on my own. I had to survive and I had two small children. You learn quickly what to do, that you can survive new circumstances you don’t know much about.

Hanna Solska was born in 1947 in Warsaw Poland, right after World War II. She received a Master’s in Sociology and a PhD in Law from Warsaw University. She migrated to America in 1980 and went from Ohio, to Worcester, Massachusetts, and then to Sutton, Massachusetts where she currently resides. Although she was passionate about being a professor in Poland, her law degree did not transfer forcing her to channel her passions into the Worcester community.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/22/2018
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Jennifer Swan

Artist; Teacher; Technocopia Consultant

Going to art school was incredible.  I think sometimes people think of art as being fun and easy, but it has its own challenges and so I think going to college, it made me really challenge myself, think really deeply, work really hard.  Art is problem solving, so learning how to work through problems, find solutions, not give up, persevere, but I think overall, it’s made me the person I am today. It’s made me a creative person and a creative thinker and that can be used in all different situations of life, not just college.

Jennifer Swan was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1977 and now currently resides in Barre, Massachusetts. Jennifer, a local artist, attended Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She has traveled to India, Colorado, California, and New Mexico for her art.  She received a Kinnicutt Travel/Study Award from the Worcester Art Museum. In the interview, Jennifer stated she is an art teacher in Worcester, who enjoys teaching all ages from children to adults.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/12/2018
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Asima Silva

Software Engineer; Co-founder, Enjoin Good; Radio Host, Perspectives

I think the reason why I’ve been able to do it as long as I have is because with work people say do what you love, and what I liked about doing what I do, is once I start coding, or once I start programming, or once I start designing, I lose complete track of time. I could be doing it for eight hours straight and not even realize that eight hours went by. When I was in school doing it as an undergrad, I’d sit at the computer at eight at night and I’d realize at six in the morning—wait a second, the entire night went by. And I thought to myself this is wonderful.  People say you have to work eight hours or ten hours a day, isn't it wonderful if you go in and you do something that you don't even feel like it’s eight to ten hours it felt like it was one because you enjoyed it and that's the reason why I think I'm still a software engineer.

Asima Silva was born in Hyderabad, India in 1974 and moved to the Worcester area when she was three years old. Asima received her undergraduate degree, as well as her master’s degree in computer science from Worcester Polytechnic University, where she was a top performer. She has five children, a full-time job as a software engineer, co-founded an outreach and diversity organization, called Enjoin Good, with her husband, and also has a local television and radio show, Perspectives, which airs weekly.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/11/2018
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Susan Mailman

President, Coghlin Electric

Since I am a female business owner I get asked to do a lot of things. I think that often times you are filling a slot. I think that as we engage, as different demographics get added to different tables, it is up to us to really engage with groups so their voices are heard.  Since I have been doing it for a long time now, I feel that my role is to make sure younger people who are coming along and sitting at a table with a lot of old white men, that we give their voices a chance to speak and to be heard because that’s the future.

 

Susan Coghlin was born in Shrewsbury Massachusetts in 1962 and attended Shrewsbury High.  She then moved to Worcester at the age of 18 and took evening courses at various Worcester colleges.  She completed her MBA at Northeastern University. Susan took on the family business of electrical contracting at Coghlin Electrical in 1985 and become the owner in 2003. In this interview Susan discusses the growing challenges in Worcester and why she believes Worcester to be the wonderful and thriving community that it is.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/17/2018
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Gizel Hampton

Associate pastor, St. John's Baptist Church; Social Worker

One of the things I didn’t mention was that after I graduated high school, I actually became homeless because my mother said, “Okay you graduated, too many mouths to feed, got to go.” [laughs]. So here I was at seventeen, which is when I graduated, trying to navigate with a two-year old, don’t have a work I.D. I really just had to volunteer and the folks at teen care really really helped support me in that and connected me to agencies.  I was in there doing dictation, filing, whatever it was to make sure my child had child care. It was tough but I look at what I do now, you know we’re not really conscious sometimes of the people around us.  We see people and we make assumptions but we don't know what people’s lives have been and so for me it’s really wanting to make sure that those people, people looked at as less than or whatever it is, I’m going back to help those folks.

Rev. Dr. Gizel Hampton was born in 1972 in Antigua. In 1983, she left Antigua and came to live in Worcester. Gizel is the associate pastor at St. John’s Baptist Church in Worcester and also a social worker for The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Gizel’s favorite part of Worcester is all the opportunities and history that are unknown to many. Gizel associates with a Western Caribbean background, but considers herself an American. She traveled to the United States at the young age of 11 and has been here ever since.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 10/27/2018
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Edith Morgan Froehlig

Teacher, Worcester School Committee member, foster mother

Instead of the kids being ready for school, it’s the school should be ready for kids.

Edith Lichtenstein Morgan Froehlig was born October 20th, 1930 to Jewish parents in Munich, Germany. Edith’s life journey has taken her from Germany to Switzerland, France, Portugal, and across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. First living in the US Midwest, Edith eventually settled In Worcester, Massachusetts.  During the past 51 years of her life, Edith has triumphed over many challenges.  She was forced from her home at an early age to escape the Nazi occupation.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/04/2018
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Jane Dewey

Researcher volunteer, American Antiquarian Society; boston Marathon runner

I covered a ping pong table in the cellar with  these letters and started reading them and making notes. And then I had seen that the New England Historical Genealogical Society had a two-week summer camp, where you lived at Harvard [University] and so I signed up for that.  I enjoyed that and then Marcus McCorison, who was the head of the [American] Antiquarian Society at that time and was a friend of my father-in-law’s, said of course they would like to have all of that at the Antiquarian Society. That was fun and we took them over and he assumed I was going with him. I guess he knew I had been working on them so I went.  It took me five years to do that collection.  I was learning, too, and it was 50 manuscript boxes. At the end of it I stayed, so that was my unpaid work.  I’m glad to have done it that way to have been home with the kids. I saved money by being at home and later when they were off and gone I could do my volunteer stuff and have fun.

Jane Dewey was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania in 1931. Jane grew up in New Brighton, Pennsylvania and lived on a piece of property that her family had owned for five generations. After attending New Brighton’s primary and secondary schools, Jane went to Abbot Academy and finished her education at Wellesley College in Massachusetts where she obtained a political science degree. After graduation, she married Henry, moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, had three girls, and was a stay at home mother.

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Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/22/2018
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Elizabeth O'Hara

Assistant Professor, Assumption College

The deal is for three years. So they're building a new park in Kelly Square and they're going to redo Kelly Square. And they wanted 21 founding partners. They’re opening in 2021 they wanted 21 founding partners. So Polar Soda was one of the big ones. Polar Park, they paid like, I don't know how many millions of dollars to be named Polar Park. Country Bank is a big one. Atlas Distributing, Wormtown Brewery.  Larry Lucchino only wanted one college. So Jack and I put together a whole presentation about if we get a sponsorship, we're going to get signage in the park, which everyone gets. Right? But we came up with this idea, let's put a classroom in the park. So my students will have an opportunity to actually learn at the park. Right? So the Red Sox said, “Well, the whole park will be your classroom.” So we'll have access to the whole park. So if the kids want to shoot a film, they have the opportunity to go use their media room or we're starting a nursing program so the nurses can go do some practicums down with the players and take care of the players and train them. We're doing a physician's assistant program, so the physician's assistants can go, criminology, right? Kids who want to be police and security, you can go down and do it at Polar Park. So it's not just sport, right? It's way beyond. 

Elizabeth O’Hara is an Assistant Professor at Assumption College, a Catholic college located in Worcester, MA. Professor O’Hara comes from an Irish and Italian background and she is married to John F. O’Hara. During the interview, she explains the connections she made while working at Madison Square Garden that eventually helped to put her in a position to implement a collaboration with Assumption and the Worcester Red Sox program benefitting students from Assumption College and the community of Worcester. She also shares her firsthand experience of the 9/11 tragedy in New York City.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/15/2019
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Margaret Watson

Professor and Dean, Quinsigamond Community College

I was the head of a department when there were very few heads of department and one of the male administrators in the college said to me, “Margaret, you look like a woman, but you think like a man.” But I don't think that was intended as a compliment.  I didn't take it that way because I'm not sure what that means. Well how do men think characteristically? How do women think characteristically? I would suggest that women concentrate on critical thinking. That they work with their analytical skills and they'd be objective about them. That they consider causality and extrapolation. I’m not sure that that is thinking like a man, but it’s how intelligent human beings should be. Use the data and make a judgment on that.

Margaret J.K. Watson was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1936 and raised on a farm in Southern Michigan. Upon completion of high school, she attended the University of Michigan where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education. She continued her graduate study at Ohio State University despite the limited opportunities that were provided to women at college level education at the time. She spent the next 36 years at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA, serving as faculty member, administrator, and Dean of Academic Affairs.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 03/17/2019
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Carol Seager

Owner, Carol Seager Associates geriatric case management

I have this thing about Worcester and I think it’s about women in Worcester. Worcester’s really quite amazing in that it’s a small city. We have all these private foundations. Most of them came out of wealthy families that were manufacturers. We’re really blessed with all this culture. From the Worcester Art Museum, to American Antiquarian Society, to Mechanics Hall, to Music Worcester, you name it.  I mean it’s quite amazing what we have here. And we have a lot of suffragettes who were in Worcester like Abby Kelly Foster and Clara Barton. I mean there’s all these women, who lived in the Central Mass area. That is an amazing heritage. There were a few suffragettes still alive when I started working at the law firm that I got to talk to.  That was really cool. So I think Worcester’s a very special place because you can really have a very good life here. My family thinks that I live in the boondocks. My sister lives in Washington, my parents lived in Manhattan, my daughter’s in Manhattan. They think why would I live in Worcester? And I think Worcester’s great. I love it. My home.

Carol Seager owned Carol Seager Associates, a geriatric case management service in Worcester, Massachusetts and also worked at the law firm Fletcher Tilton and Fidelity Financial Planning. She discusses her parents, her career development, the challenges of raising two children on her own and shares her view of women’s experiences in Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/28/2019
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