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.

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.

Interview Date: 
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.

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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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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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.

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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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.

Interview Date: 
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.

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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Joan Arnold

Lawyer; Member of WISE

I had a great legal career and I had the experience of being the first woman to do the job. And that's not an uncommon thing with women of my age. I’m 71 now and for example, when I went to Boston to find a job after law school, the [jobs] classifieds were still listed in columns, women and men.  Or female and male or something like that: classifieds female, classifieds male. And so, because it was just that time, so many of my jobs were [pause] they hadn't come across women before.  And so, my first job as a public defender, which I wanted that job very badly because by then I had done clinical education at my law school. I had gone to court as a student, a supervised student, and I thought I loved that. I thought that's really great stuff and I wanted to do criminal law because it sounded exotic. [laughs] I didn't know anything about it, it just sounded like, “That's pretty cool, I'll do that.” And so I applied and I did get the job, but the person who told me—I was interviewed a bunch of times by the person who was the decision-maker guy and he said to me, “You know, I don't think women can be trial lawyers [laughs] but we need to start hiring some women so we're going to hire you and send you out to Springfield where they never had a woman so good luck.”

Joan Elizabeth Arnold, born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1947 grew up in Chicago and eventually settled in Worcester with her husband. She attended Vassar College for her undergraduate degree and then received her law degree at Boston College. After working in Boston and Springfield, Arnold moved to Worcester to open her own law practice. In this interview, Arnold discusses her life growing up, her parents’ relationship in comparison to her own, her career in law, and her life outside of work. When Arnold was about to enter college, her parents moved to Switzerland.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/09/2019
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