“I found it—not being a native of Worcester—I found it very hard to make connections with people before my children were school age. Once they’re school age, you kinda get to interact with other parents and parents of their friends. It’s a different ball game. But when they were very little I found it very isolating. And I wasn’t working at the time.”
Barbara Athy is the Director of Marketing and Communication at Abby’s House, a nonprofit organization in Worcester serving homeless and battered women and children. Born in 1953 in Canton, Massachusetts, Barbara studied art history at Boston College and moved to her husband’s hometown of Worcester after marrying. In this interview, Barbara discusses the educational, political, and professional experiences that ultimately brought her to Abby’s House. She emphasizes the importance of finding meaning through relationships in her work in spite of the low pay and high stress of the nonprofit sector. A mother of three who put her career on hold to raise her children, Barbara also highlights the struggles of balancing a career and family life—particularly in light of her husband’s somewhat unconventional job operating a funeral home. Barbara discusses the ways in which gender influenced the opportunities she has had in her own life and compares this with her parents’ generation, explaining the discrimination her mother faced as a teacher during World War II and her father’s perception of women in the field of law. Barbara also touches upon the fashions and pastimes of her youth and the changes that have taken place in Worcester’s downtown over the past 30 years.