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.

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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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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Joy Rachelle Murrieta

Musician; Music Teacher, Worcester Music Academy; Founder, Main Idea

I try to give myself this advice every day. That is, don’t ever let fear be the reason you don’t do something, go for something. If that’s the reason, do it anyways. And two, try to pace yourself. Try to be gracious with yourself and others.

Joy Rochelle Murrieta was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts in 1986 and attended Crown College where she studied Music Performance and Christian studies. In this interview Joy was 31 years old. Joy identifies as half-Mexican, her mother is white and is from Colorado, and her father is Mexican. Joy’s family move around while she was growing, and she discusses some of her experiences in different parts of Massachusetts and Colorado. Joy opens up about the hardships she went through while growing up with her mother and sister having medical problems.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 09/22/2017
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Maryann Johnson

Chief Development Officer, Oakhill Community Development Corp

I think I always knew that I would work. I never thought about not working. But my parents also gave back to the community, and my grandmother did too. I feel that kind of inspired me to…work in the nonprofit world. My dad worked in human services, my mother worked in education. I think we were just raised to give back and be there for people.

Maryann Johnson was born on September 11th, 1985 in Salisbury, England, but raised in the small town of Bath, Maine. Maryann grew up in a sailor’s mansion with her parents, older brother and older sister. Following in her sister’s shadow, Maryann idolized her older sister growing up, spending her school vacations visiting her sister at college in New York. In 2003, Maryann began college at Clark University, majoring in nonprofit management with a minor in women’s studies. While at college, she met her now husband. Today they have young twin girls and are expecting their third child.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/19/2017
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Irma Leone

Retired Raytheon Quality Control Inspector; Born in Italy

I feel like how did I do it?  How did I get to this point, to be happy in this house, in this country, with the people around me, how did I do it?  But you see, I had a good man and I knew it.  Yes, it was love at first sight.  I can see him now like that first time.  The sun was at the door, at the back of him, and he had the military hat, the military uniform.  The fatigues, they called it. And the smile was like—how can you say?  An apparition. 

Irma Leone was born in Vicenza, Italy. In this interview she shares what it was like to meet and marry her American husband in Italy and then move to the United States leaving her friends and family to begin a new life in Massachusetts.  She raised three daughters and worked at Phalo Wire and Cable Corporation, Fab Tronic Coil Company, and became a quality control inspector at Raytheon. Although at times it was a challenge to learn the language and culture of a new country, she never regretted following her heart because, as she said, “I had a good man and I knew it.”

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Wed, 03/13/2019
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