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.

Josephine Bylinski

Spacesuit Production Worker, David Clark; Clock Maker, General Electric

First, I worked—I used to make clocks for General Electric [when they acquired] Telechron.  And then after that, the company moved out, so then I collected [unemployment] for three months, and then I got a job at David Clark and I worked on spacesuits. I worked there 32 years. I made more money at Telechron than I did at David Clark ... because I was on piece work at Telechron, so I made good money, that was good money years ago.

Josephine Bylinski was born in Worcester, MA on January 10, 1930 and attended Saint Mary’s School and Commerce High School. Upon graduation, she worked for General Electric Company making clocks for 15 years, and then for David Clark making spacesuits for 32 years. She was always and still remains a very active member of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church.

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Thu, 09/08/2016
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Regina Wolanin

Teacher, Dental Assistant, Secretary

So, I saw in the newspaper, used to be the Girls Club--where it’s Girls, Inc. now, it was the Girls Club--they’re looking for a sewing teacher and a cooking teacher. I can do it! So, I applied for the job! I said, “I do sewing, I do cooking, and everything else.” So, they hired me. So, I was a sewing and cooking teacher. And, just looking through my papers, I’ll have to let you read it because I can’t say the whole thing. When looking through all my junk stuff and everything, I came across this little thing that I saved and in it, one of my former students, when she wrote this she was 17, and I almost cried reading what she had written about me.  But anyhow, so I worked there for, oh, 24 years.

Regina H. Wolanin was born on October 29, 1926 in Webster, MA. Her parents immigrated from Poland.  She grew up in the Vernon Hill section of Worcester, which was the “Polish” section and went to school at Saint Mary’s and then Commerce High. Regina started working upon her graduation from high school and never attended college. Her family was rather poor, but they had a rich family life.

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Fri, 09/09/2016
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Marie Felice

Registered Nurse; Member of Worcester Institute for Senior Education

I feel successful that I did something important with my life, that I've helped people.  Through the years I’ve saved cards that people have sent—from patients—and I thought, “Wow, this made an impact on other people.” I feel successful that I was a good nurse, not perfect, but I do feel that God gave me the strength to do it and the motivation and even coming to the [WISE] classes now. People say, “What are you going there for?” I said, “Just to get smart.” 

Born in 1948 in Clinton, Massachusetts, Marie Felice was the first born of a growing Italian family. She remained in Clinton until she went on to get her Licensed Practical Nurse certification from Quinsigamond Community College and her Registered Nurse degree from Anna Maria College and Worcester State University. Since then, Marie has worked as a nurse and case manager at local Catholic Worcester hospitals. In her interview, she details her life as a single mother focused on raising her son, helping patients, and always learning.

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Tue, 10/01/2019
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Roberta Corn

Special Education Teacher; Counselor for Survivors of Domestic Abuse; WISE Member

I've always liked knowing people of different backgrounds and different cultures. I think that's a really important part of who we are as people, that we are much more connected and much more similar than we are different.

Roberta “Bobbi” Corn was born in 1945, in Belfast, Northern Ireland immigrating to the United States as an infant. Bobbi moved from state to state, she eventually settled in the Greater Worcester area over 20 years ago. Being of Jewish descent, she attended Hebrew school on Saturdays, while also attending Springfield High School during the week. After high school, she attended Penn State where she received a bachelor’s degree in English, and also met her husband.

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Mon, 10/07/2019
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Sandra Congdon

Phone Company and Ecotarium Visitor Services; Community Volunteer; Member of WISE

I would say learn everything you can, and don’t put boxes around what you learn. Even though when I was working for the phone company I was learning how to talk to people, that fell over the edges of the box and led me to other things. And experiment, and explore. I go to Europe every spring, me and a bunch of my friends, and we love it so much and we get out and we went to Scotland, we ate haggis [makes disgusted look]. But I mean if I’m going some place I have never been before, then I’m going to do what is there, I’m going to eat some weird thing that I’ve never heard of before, or that I’ve heard of and thought “Oh that must be awful.” Just don’t shut yourself down, keep yourself open to all new experiences, and learn, learn, learn as much as you can.

Sandra Jean Whitehouse Desaulniers Congdon was born in 1945 in Storrs, Connecticut where she attended Ashford Elementary School, E.O. Smith High School, and the University of Connecticut. However, she withdrew from the university when she married her husband, had a daughter prematurely, and began a career at the local telephone company. She lived in numerous small towns around Massachusetts, but when the company relocated to Worcester, MA, she moved with them.

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Mon, 10/14/2019
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Ann "Cookie" Nelson

Author; Designer; Co-founder, Worcester Children's Theater; Member of WISE

 Anger is never, ever productive, ever.

Ann “Cookie” Nelson was born in 1937 and grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Ann was married in 1959 and later had two children, and now has three grandchildren. Through this period of her life, she balanced family life with a career in writing. She wrote many travel  articles, was a food critic, and ultimately was the author two children’s books. As an active member in the Worcester W.I.S.E. community, she organizes fundraisers. At a young age, Ann developed a passion for the arts which eventually led her to act in two television commercials.

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Fri, 10/11/2019
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Carolyn Milewski

Accountant, Member of WISE

When I was 21 and making money, I went to…Filene’s to open up a charge account…When I went to the office and asked for an application, I had to take it home and have my father co-sign because he was male head of household. I didn’t have a husband. If you had a husband, your husband would have co-signed…I got the credit card. My father never had a problem with me paying the bill. I’m an accountant.

Carolyn D. Milewski, a Worcester native, was born in 1948.  As a Polish-American, she grew up in the Vernon Hill area with those of the same ethnic background. Carolyn attended St. Mary’s High School and later continued her education in the field of accounting by earning an associate’s degree at Becker Junior College and a bachelor’s degree at Nichols College. Carolyn says that she felt she was given an opportunity most women don’t receive when her male employer paid for her college education. Carolyn also had to overcome obstacles when compared to men.

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Fri, 10/11/2019
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Ann Marie Shea

Professor Emerita, Worcester State University; Actress

I think it's wonderful that women are realizing that women have a right to their space, they have a right to their voice. 

This transcript highlights the life experiences and insight of Ann Marie Shea, a Worcester native born in 1939. Growing up a Catholic Irish- American, Ann Marie is the daughter of two Irish immigrants. Ann Marie attended Worcester public schools and continued her education at Anna Maria College, where she majored in English. She then furthered her education at Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., where she received a small scholarship. Theater was her area of study at Catholic University. With passion and skill, Ann Marie has worked much of her life in this field.

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Tue, 02/20/2018
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Marie Mueller

Library Director, Bigelow Free Library, Clinton, MA

The part I love about this [job], I made the job what I wanted it to be… You have to stay forward thinking…If you get in a little rut…you don’t grow as a person, and you don’t grow as an institution…My mission in life is to be constantly learning…My goal is to do new things and to learn in a sort of way that is useful…Learning is fun.

Marie Mueller is currently the Library Director at the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, MA. She is known at work for her ability to perform any task that the library needs at any time. In the interview Marie puts a large focus on her work life including daily routines, and procedures she undergoes which help her to be successful in her field of work. She stresses that many have a misinformed judgment of the library and wants people to realize that the library isn’t the boring field most people believe it is.

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Fri, 03/16/2018
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Holly Burgess

Attorney; Member of WISE

I’ve been fortunate to have lots of mentors and a number of women mentors in my career. So that’s something I think would be important to be noted, of how important that is and has been for my generation and I think would continue to be. Women helping women to learn the ropes.

Holly Burgess was born in Holden, Massachusetts in 1953 and grew up and attended primary school and high school in the Greater Worcester area. Upon completion of high school, she briefly attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, but did not obtain a degree as she decided to get married. Later, she attended Quinsigamond Community College and received her associate degree in the dental hygiene program. She went on to continue her undergraduate education at Clark University in business administration.

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Thu, 10/03/2019
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