Education

We are interested in understanding how women and girls in Worcester have experienced learning, both through formal institutions and through life experiences and relationships. This theme includes women and girls’ experiences within, and access to, schools and higher education, as well as other avenues to knowledge and skills.

Donna Crocker

Teacher; Member of Worcester Institute for Senior Education

Be yourself. Be strong. [laughs] Be ready and don’t be too hard on yourself. I think that women are coming to a point where they can feel stronger and express that. I would say also have a sense of humor; don’t expect to be perfect. Realize that most of the time life is good and do your best.

Donna Garrison Crocker was born in San Antonio Texas in 1944.  She moved around quite a bit as a young girl growing up, as her father was in, what was referred to at the time, as Army Air Corps during World War II. She and her family ultimately settled down in Weymouth, MA where she would later meet her husband. Donna now lives in Uxbridge, MA with her husband and the two of them regularly attend WISE [Worcester Institute for Senior Education] classes at Assumption College in Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/03/2019
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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.

Interview Date: 
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.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/14/2019
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Congdon

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.

Interview Date: 
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.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 02/20/2018
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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.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/03/2019
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Geraldine Brophy

Social Worker; Psychotherapist, Director of Psychiatry; Member of WISE

Always have a beginner's mind; always keep your mind open. It’s difficult in these times when there is so much divisiveness and venom being spewed in all directions, it’s hard to find your own center, I would say, and this may sound flip, but practice yoga because yoga gives you the opportunity to find where your center is. If you know where your center is, if you know who you are, and what you are, then what’s going on around you is irrelevant. You are going to make the decision that is right for you and that is what you need to do and not be distracted by all the cacophony going on around you.

Geraldine Brophy was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1944 to Katherine and John Brophy. She is the eldest of two daughters. She is the mother to two sons; one from her first marriage and another from her second. Geraldine attended Southern Connecticut State University and got her bachelor’s degree in education. At 48 years old, after she had met and married her second husband, she went back to college at Boston College and received her master’s degree in social work.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/16/2019
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Elaine Bloom

Classics Teacher, Worcester Academy; Member of WISE

I just knew when I was a freshman in high school and  opened up a Latin I book for the first time and saw the chart of a Latin noun being declined of all its forms, I just thought, “That’s fantastic, it’s so logical, it’s so organized and you can tell by the spelling what the word is doing in the sentence. This is marvelous.”

Elaine Francis Willy Bloom was born in 1947. Bloom, a member of the baby boom generation, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and raised in Barre, Massachusetts where she has lived her entire life except for higher education. She graduated from high school in 1965, went to undergraduate school at the University of Vermont, and graduate school at University of Cincinnati. She taught for thirty-three years, spending the first half of her career in the classics department at the University of Cincinnati and the second half working in the history department at Ohio State University.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/10/2019
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Joan Barry

Principal, St. Mary's School; Member of WISE

It was hard sometimes to work with parents or administrators who didn’t value women to the degree I think—they didn’t like smart women. It’s changed, but in the beginning, it was very much that way. You sort of had to prove yourself over time. So, you were never a part of the old boy network. All these men would come into a meeting and they would joke, but never with the women administrators. But more and more women became administrators. Then they had no choice.  And now if you look, more and more women are school principals than ever before.

Born in 1947 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Joan Barry moved to Worcester at four years old, so her father could run his business as a funeral director. Joan attended Framingham State University where she earned her BA in administration. Shortly after she attended Columbia University for her master’s degree. Joan got a job as an assistant principal at Saint Mary’s Middle School where she worked for 8 years. She explains that she got her first job as a principal during a time when it was very unlikely because the positions were mostly filled with football coaches.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/17/2019
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Barry

Hanna Solska

Professor in Poland; former Executive Director, International Center of Worcester; Manager of Patient Relations, Saint Vincent Hospital, MetroWest Medical Center

Well, I didn’t really choose, [laughs] I was forced to choose. If I had stayed on my original path, then I would be professor of law by now, teaching. But you learn to adjust, I guess. That’s a plus. You learn how to adjust to different circumstances.  Suddenly you are dropped in the middle of something—somewhere you’ve never been. And I think you just learn to adjust. And I think compromise, adjustment—that’s what it taught me.  Cons, of course, I wish [laughs] I could have stayed in Poland. But there was huge political unrest in Poland.  That was one of major reasons why I left.  I didn’t want my children to go through this. So, I don’t know how it would have been in 1980. That was solidarity movement in Poland and the whole of Europe was a lot of different movements—political movements. So, that was reason why I left and who knows what I’d be doing there if I stayed. But here, definitely that was challenge. But I think it made me stronger. I couldn’t rely on my mom anymore, which I did a lot, and my grandmother. So, now I was on my own. I had to survive and I had two small children. You learn quickly what to do, that you can survive new circumstances you don’t know much about.

Hanna Solska was born in 1947 in Warsaw Poland, right after World War II. She received a Master’s in Sociology and a PhD in Law from Warsaw University. She migrated to America in 1980 and went from Ohio, to Worcester, Massachusetts, and then to Sutton, Massachusetts where she currently resides. Although she was passionate about being a professor in Poland, her law degree did not transfer forcing her to channel her passions into the Worcester community.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/22/2018
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