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.

Valerie Cohen

Senior Rabbi, Temple Emanuel Sinai

I am, in a one-liner my friend wrote an article about, which is the best line I ever heard, “I am, it is an honor and it is humbling to be invited into people’s lives at the highest moments, the most joyful moments, and the lowest moments.” And I get to do that. People invite me in because of my position and it’s really an honor and humbling.

Valerie Cohen was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1971 and currently lives in Holden Ma with her husband, daughter and son. In this interview she reflects on being a rabbi at the Temple Emanuel Sinai as well as a mother and wife. Valerie explains moving from state to state due to the extreme demands of her job as a rabbi. Valerie is the Senior Rabbi overseeing much of what the synagogue does. She explains working 60-80 hours a week just to cover the demands of the job. Valerie elaborates on her education at the University of Florida and the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/05/2018
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Amanda Collins Bernier

Editor, Baystate Parent

Before I met my husband I was engaged to someone that I had known growing up, and he died from cancer when we were twenty-four. So that definitely has had a big impact on my life. And I took care of him. I quit my job. I got my first job at the Charlton Villager, and he found out he was really really sick, and I quit my job and took care of him. That’s definitely the biggest health thing that has impacted my life.

Amanda Collins Bernier, Baystate Parent editor, was interviewed on October 9, 2018 at the Worcester Magazine Office. Amanda was born in 1986 in California and now is the editor of Baystate Parent Magazine and works in the Worcester Magazine office in Worcester. Amanda is a very passionate mother, worker and communicator. She has worked her way up through the media ladder, from working at a small-town newspaper to being the editor of a major Massachusetts magazine.

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Tue, 10/09/2018
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Filomena Cesareo

Lawyer, Spouse of Assumption College president

I can’t even tell you what triggered it, besides my mom telling me that I liked to argue, but I always said, “I’m going to law school, I’m going to be a lawyer.” I [now work] in estate planning , where I don’t even see a courtroom.  Estate planning is very detailed work…but I think it gives people peace of mind…It just makes people feel like, “Okay, I know when I leave, everything is taken care of, I don’t have to worry about that.” [My children] saw my work ethic because they knew a lot of times when they went to bed, I was going to work [at home]. It was probably the best fit ever, because I was able to work from home when my kids were little.

Filomena Cesareo was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1964 to Italian immigrants. She is the second of three daughters and attended Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. During this time, she studied business and political science and met the man who would later become her husband. After graduation, Filomena continued her study of political science as a law student at

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/21/2019
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Charisse Murphy

Director, YOU,Inc.

Support networks and mentoring are my entire existence. There is no way I could do half the stuff that I do without a support network. And now I have turned the page and am being a mentor to other young women.

Charisse Lynn Murphy was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1980. She became a director at YOU, Inc. in Worcester in 2008. When Charisse was small, she grew up as if she were an only child. Her parents separated, and her siblings were much older than she. Those siblings already lived on their own.  She was said to have an old soul as she was raised by her mother, who is 40 years older than she. At present, she has her own family with four children, and is working as the director of development at YOU, Inc.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/27/2019
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Mallory Mason Sakats

Co-owner, ENT Billing; Boston Marathon Runner

So I was right on Hereford when they pretty much stopped us; we didn’t know what was going on. From my perspective it sounded like when you hear a large truck that backfires, that’s kind of what it sounded like to us.  They weren’t telling us anything. We were just literally stopped there for, I would say, I don’t know, time is hard to reflect on at this point, it seemed like twenty minutes.  I told my friend she had to go back, she needed to get out of there, she needed to kind of go back and tell our friends, and we heard that there might be a bombing, there might be suspects on the loose, we were hearing lots of different things.  So then they told us to leave the scene.  As you can imagine, they jammed all the cell service, so no one could really get in contact with each other. We kept trying to call my mom. We walked all the way around, I’m not sure how familiar you are with Boston, but around the Charles River there’s all these paths, so we tried to cut over away from the road along the Charles to then cut back in past the finish line to find my mom because Dana Farber had a meeting spot at the Boston Marriot Hotel. In my delusional mind, I figured we would meet there. Well, obviously we couldn’t get in there. It’s been an hour, I’ve already been running for four hours, limping beyond belief, so injured, so cold in my sweat, they basically told me to route back and walk back to my apartment which was on the Brookline-Boston line, about two miles back.  So we walked back.  It was, it still is, a very surreal thing to talk about, it doesn’t seem like it happened. It was a very, very weird time, and running in the subsequent year was both cathartic and very nerve wracking, but I think that’s something that I needed to do to move past that day.

Mallory Mason Sakats is the co-owner of ENT Billing, a medical billing company in Worcester, MA.  In this interview she describes mentors that assisted her along her educational and career path, the pros and cons of being a business owner, and how she navigates balancing work and motherhood as a new mother.  She also shares her firsthand experience of being a marathon runner in the 2013 Boston Marathon, the year of the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 03/14/2019
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Susan Paradis

Owner, Parker's Candy Store

I like it because I'm seeing generations come back and it's just nice, it’s rewarding, it’s a happy store.

Susan Paradis was born in Worcester in 1972. Susan’s family owned a candy store when she was a child but they eventually sold the store. Susan reopened it on her own when she was older, bringing Parker’s Candy Store, a staple to West Boylston, back to the town. In this interview, Susan discusses what her life was like when she was a child living with her dad. She then moved to live with her mother and stepdad in the town of West Boylston where she lived for most of her life.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/27/2019
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Rachael Shea

Librarian; Sacred Fire Keeper

I have followed two principal ancestral traditions. I have done a pilgrimage in the Huichol tradition. Huichol Indians live in Mexico and I did a proper pilgrimage where you fast and you go someplace and then you walk a long way without food or water and you make prayers to a sacred site. So, I did a pilgrimage but it took me 12 years to do a 6-year pilgrimage in Mexico and that has informed me in one way. And then before that and then after that, I have found teachers in the Lakota tradition and so I study and work with them. So sweat lodges in Temescal and prayer, that sort of connecting to the Earth, looking for how all of us beings on this planet are connected.  I'm no greater than the tree, no more important than that rock, and we all need each other to survive and how do we do this together. But this kind of ties in with me being a librarian because I know that what our species needs to do is to learn how to be together and to share and to be respectful of things even that are other from us. What librarians do is they teach people how to share things like books and lights and chairs and computers and rooms and that sort of thing. And we have stories of the ancestors from many different cultures so we've become more aware of different ways of seeing the world. That’s what our species needs or we won't make it. So that’s my spiritual tradition and it's my work here. 

Rachael Shea was raised in Worcester, MA, and attended Burncoat High School, University of New Hampshire, and earned her master’s degree at Columbia University. She is a librarian and has worked at College of the Holy Cross, Worcester State University, Clark University, and the American Antiquarian Society. In this interview she discusses growing up in the Burncoat area and the changes she has seen in Worcester.

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Sun, 04/14/2019
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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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Silvia Leb

Lawyer, Immigrant from Romania

Romania was an anti-Semitic country. Although its policy now is not. Talking about antisemitism actually, I should mention as I discussed before, that I was born in that province of Bukovina. Romania was an ally of Germany during the Second World War. And on June 22nd when Nazi Germany attacked Russia, the Romanians joined them but went into a different front which was into the Ukraine, and then in October of 1941, the Romanian government deported all of us, all the Jews from that area, from the Bukovina to the Ukraine, it was under Romanian administration, that’s why they named it Transnistria and we stayed there for three years in a bombed out, abandoned place. It was like a ghetto, you couldn’t go anywhere, you couldn’t make a living, you couldn’t–a lot of people died. So, when we came back it took three years until we were able–when the Russians came in and the Germans started to retreat. So my memories of the deportation itself are very scant because I was only two years old, but at the age of four or so I do have memories about that.

Clara Silvia Leb, known socially and professionally as Silvia Leb, was born in 1939 in Bukovina, Romania, and after leaving Romania for Israel in 1970, permanently settled in Worcester in 1974. One year after arriving in Worcester, she and her husband, Dr. Laszlo Leb, had their daughter, Ellen. After completing her higher education during her early 20s in Bucharest, Romania, she became a lawyer, working as legal counsel for over eight years before her husband received a fellowship as a physician to come to the United States.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/27/2019
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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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