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.

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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Oriola Koci

Owner of Livia's Dish and Altea Eatery restaurants; Albanian

Oh my God, this is like my baby. This is my world. I love the fact that we built something from nothing. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the fact that we named them after our kids, but I love that more than anything because it brings the whole family together. I take everything about this place personally – this is who I am, this is what we do. And the mentality building these restaurants was that we are going to build something that’s going to be what we want to see if we went somewhere. And that’s from the food, to the atmosphere, to the service, to the way that people are treated, everything else. So this is my world, this is my world. [laughs]....You do your best, you work really hard, you integrate yourself into the society in the best way possible.  And I feel like for a first generation immigrant, America does have a lot of opportunities, a lot of venues to use and resources to integrate yourself.  And then, do more.  I think it’s the way that this country was built by immigrants makes it easier for immigrants and generations to come to be part of this community, this society, and to continue to build this country. 

Oriola Koci was born in Tirana, Albania in 1977.  Oriola and her family immigrated to Worcester when she was 18 years old on a diversity lottery visa won by her mother.  She attended Assumption College for her undergraduate studies and Clark University for her master’s degree.  Oriola is a very hard worker who overcame the English barrier when she immigrated to the United States.  She did this by working hard and integrating herself into the society.  Her friends also helped her in this process since some of them attended Clark’s ESL program.

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Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/15/2019
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Karen Duffy

CEO, Worcester Credit Union

For me it's really important to note that as a woman being in a position of leadership twenty, twenty five, thirty years you attract all kinds of attention and not all of it obviously good. So there were a lot of opportunities, but there was also a lot of notice that you got and navigating that is difficult and is still difficult. I have all women who work for me, and it’s still difficult for young women I think to navigate any world where it's dominated by men and especially men at the top. And for me, as I read though some of your questions like, ‘What would you advise women today,’ my take on it even from a young age was, I'm not going to be afraid to be out front, I'm not going to be afraid to fail, and I'm not going be afraid to speak up. And so you know what, I really always wanted to move forward, and the only way to move forward was to be out front sometimes, so I would get on boards, and every board I got on I went through what they call the chairs. So I would become secretary and treasurer then vice chair, then chair, because I wanted to do it and I wanted other women to see a women in that position. And I always show—so that's a picture of me [pointing at photo with Karen and about 15 men, all in suits] and all guys.  That's the state trade association board. And it's me with, now there was another woman but she wasn't in the picture but it's like okay, you know what,  we cannot be afraid to be out from like that. And I always thought of myself as an equal.  Whether anybody else did or not was not really my problem. That’s how I looked at it. I looked at myself as an equal so when I went into that boardroom and sat down with all those guys I spoke up, I said what I thought. And they didn't always treat me as an equal, but that doesn't mean I didn't behave as if I expected them to.

Karen Duffy was born in Melrose, MA and currently lives in Shrewsbury, MA. She is the CEO of Worcester Credit Union and an active member of the Worcester community. In this interview, Karen discusses many of her life experiences encompassing both her family and work life. She talks about where she has lived, including some time she spent in Scotland while her ex-husband was stationed there in the Navy. In her family life, Karen reflects on her experience with her youngest daughter coming out as gay, how she and her ex-husband reacted, and how they grew to support their daughter.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 04/02/2019
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Linda Cavaioli

Executive Director, YWCA of Central Massachusetts

I see the YWCA as hopefully remaining as a vital part of the fabric of the community because we start with early care and education and we do youth development and health and wellness.  In fact our department is called Wellness and Health Equity, and we do housing for women, and we do domestic violence programs. We have a very diverse but important group of services and we are a collaborator.  I used to say that I would feel like I’ve been successful when we are called upon as an expert on race and gender and so we have been called on as an expert.  When the Equal Pay Act and when the nasty laws were repealed, we get calls to comment on that and I am able to say, "Yes, pay is not equal, but when you look at race then pay is even more unequal."  And then we are the place where a lot of race and gender equity groups meet, so we are a resource, plus we are in the thick of it. I hope that we stay true to our mission and that we see ourselves as a resource to community and as a safe place for people to come together and have those difficult conversations.

This interview follows the professional and personal life of Linda Cavaioli born in 1954 and originally from Leominster, Massachusetts.  Ms.Cavaioli is the executive director at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts. Raised in a close knit and diverse community, Ms.Cavaioli details how such an upbringing expanded her perspectives. As an undergraduate, her studies dealt with social work and the impact aspects such as gender and race contain in our social world. Before working at the YWCA, Ms. Cavaioli spent years at United Way of South Florida and Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Interview Date: 
Fri, 08/31/2018
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Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk

VP, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Central & Western Mass

Know that you can do whatever you want to do, and don’t let anyone else define that for you. And when you’re scared, it’s actually good…So, you do it, and it’s the only way to make it go away, because you have the experience, and you’re not afraid of that thing anymore.

Having spent the totality of her life in Worcester, it is no doubt that this city holds a special place in Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk’s heart.  She was born in 1973 and lived in Main South, attending various public schools in the city of Worcester, until she went on to college, first at Assumption College, then Worcester State University, to receive a bachelor’s degree.  Kate got her start in Worcester at Shaw’s Supermarket on Gold Star Boulevard.  This fueled her love for the improvement of the city, leading to working for Worcester Magazine and now in her current position as Vice

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/06/2017
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Mary Caulway

Greater Worcester Land Trust

I would say stick with your career. There’s got to be a way, because raising the kids is really, really wonderful, but if you can make it so you can do both… that is awesome... whatever you choose to do, do it.

Mary Caulway was born in 1961 and is from Vestal, New York. She is married to William Caulway and together they have three children. Mary moved to Massachusetts in 1988 and currently resides in Charlton, MA. In the early 2000’s Mary began working for the Greater Worcester Land Trust, which is a nonprofit land conservation organization, and she now volunteers with this organization. Since she began working in Worcester, she became very passionate about the city and what it has to offer.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/12/2017
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Birgit Straehle

Art Conservator, Worcester Art Museum; Owner, Sprinkler Factory

Worcester is a welcoming city, it’s the city of inventors. Just went to the Harvey Ball last night, to the Worcester Historical Museum. And I think that’s a good place where all the inventions are well-kept, and you can see what Worcester was and is still! Worcester, I think, follows that tradition because now it’s more, less the industry. But I love, I love, a lot of new entrepreneurs are starting in Worcester.

Birgit Straehle was born in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany, in 1973, and works as an Art Conservator for the Worcester Art Museum, located in Massachusetts. Birgit graduated high school, and eventually went on to major in art history at university in Germany. In 2003, during her second semester at university, she took a break from her studies to start her internship in Worcester for half a year to gain hands- on experience in her field in- between her studies.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/06/2017
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Sarai Rivera

Worcester City Councilor; Minister; Social Activist

So definitely I feel like I do this because I live by what's called the two greats, the great commission and the great commandment. The greatest commandment is that in order to love God I must love neighbor.  I can't profess to love the God I serve without really loving neighbor. That doesn't mean I love you with conditions, I’m not there to ask you what you practice for religion, I’m not there to ask you who you live with, I can’t.  I’m not asked to love you with any condition I’m just asked to love you. And so understanding the importance of being on that Jericho Road even though that Jericho Road was obviously very difficult, right? Because the guy on the Jericho Road is the story of the good Samaritan who was on the Jericho Road and  gets beaten and obviously that's a really tasking road. And so definitely my service in council is like a calling for me.

Sarai Rivera was born and raised in the Worcester area and currently serves on the Worcester City Council. In addition to her work in local government, Sarai is a minister at local churches and works for global partnerships at churches abroad in Burundi, Rwanda, Haiti. She earned her master’s degree in clinical social work and her doctorate in urban ministries and  is a visiting professor at Assumption College. Her three roles often overlap in her pursuit of equity in society, be it racial, social, sexual, educational, or economic.

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Interview Date: 
Mon, 07/23/2018
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Hilda Ramirez

Assistant Director of the Latino Education Institute, Worcester State University

But success for me right now is more about enjoying my time at work. Doing the best that I can to accomplish successes for others, not for myself anymore. And so to me, success means helping other younger professionals achieve their goals and I do that a lot here with college students who I see.  And I make sure to connect them to a professional job and sort of that cycle of having them give back to their community and be part of that. So that's what success means for me today.

Hilda Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic in 1964 and ten years later her family moved to New York City. She faced challenges as a non-English speaking child, but through strength, perseverance, and the guidance of a bilingual elementary school teacher, Hilda found academic success. After professional achievements in the male-dominated corporate sector, Hilda returned to school and earned a Master’s in Administration and Social Policy at Harvard University.

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Interview Date: 
Mon, 08/06/2018
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Parlee Jones

Shelter Advocate, Abby's House

I lived with my mom and you know how that goes once you're grown and you have two kids. So they let me move in with my sister when my mom was like, “You gotta go.” And I got back on my feet in that space. My kids went to school. Single mom, I'm still a single mom. And Abby's gave me the courage and the strength to be able to walk on my own.  Through my time here at 77 I actually got a Section 8 certificate and found an apartment moved on, blah blah blah and all that good stuff. And Abby's asked me to come back and be on the board of directors. So I did that for a while, they always have a representative from the women who serve on the board and that was my job. And I’m honored and humbled and then I did that and Tess Sneesby said, “We have an opening for shelter advocates, you should come and do that.” And I was like, “Tess, I'm a secretary. I don't know anything about that.” And she said, “Well, you'll be fine. Just come on and do it.” And they offered me a couple more dollars than I was getting at Head Start so I took that role on and here I still am.  So guess I'm supposed to be here.

Parlee Jones was born in Leominster, MA in 1966 and moved to Worcester, MA as an infant. Except for spending eleven years in Brooklyn, NY, Parlee has spent nearly her whole life in Worcester. Parlee currently serves as a shelter advocate at Abby’s House women’s shelter in Worcester and has served in this position for over ten years. She describes how activism changed the course of her life. In Brooklyn, she encountered community organizations and a sense of pride in Black culture, which she worked to bring with her back to Worcester.

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Interview Date: 
Mon, 07/16/2018
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