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.

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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Jill Green Lebow

Senior VP and Cheif Human Respources Officer, Fallon Health; Lawyer

We focus a lot on our values here at Fallon Health.  That’s why a lot of people like to work here, they believe in those values. We get a lot of feedback that they’re not just words on a wall, right? They really see those behaviors and the decisions that we make, how our managers and supervisor treat the employees that work with them and by focusing on those values—innovation, accountability it fosters an environment of learning and development and we’ve also always seen that as important. HR’s a very valued function at this organization. Human Resources sits at the executive table, not at all organizations. I will only work at an HR organization where they have a seat where the decisions are made because it just shows the value of people.

Jill Lebow was born in Putnam, Connecticut, in 1974. She was raised by a hard-working blue-collar family. She attended the University of Connecticut. While studying abroad in London, Jill became attracted to urban life. Jill attended law school in New York and volunteered at a woman’s shelter for domestic violence where she was eventually paid for her successful work. Inspired through this work, Jill became focused on equal rights and employment discrimination. She moved to Worcester in 2000 with her husband and has been working at Fallon Health since 2002.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/15/2019
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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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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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Ruea Baum

Nurse, U.S. Army, WWII

When I first entered the service we had basic training, the same as the men had.  When they put us on the wards we had to get up at five o’clock in the morning and doing the basic exercises and so forth and then you went on duty at seven o’clock.  You worked seven to seven with two hours off.  You always had one afternoon a week and at the end of the month you had two days off.  On night duty, if you worked nights you worked from seven pm to seven am with no time off.  You were supposed to have a half hour for supper but you could never leave your ward because you didn’t have time to really.  We were sent overseas, like I said, in December.  Went to Scotland, down across England, and then down to France where we were stationed at a general hospital in a small town about the size of Hudson [MA], I would say, in Chalons-sur-Marne, France on the Marne River.  And it didn’t make any difference what you had done in civilian life they would assign you to most anything in the army, but I discovered they found out I had done night supervisor for three years and all of a sudden I was on night duty [laughs].  And night duty was twelve-hour duty, no time off.  You worked from seven am to seven pm and if there was any classes or anything you were supposed to go to you had to go during the day with no sleep.  Just no time off for night nurses. 

Bolton, MA resident, Ruea Baum, shared her memories of serving as a United States Army nurse in England and France during World War II from September 1944 to July 1946. She retired from the military as a 1st Lieutenant and recalls the German surrender and marching in the Eisenhower parade.  She was born in 1921 and recently celebrated her 96th birthday.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 11/20/2016
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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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