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.”

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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. This forced Arnold to become an independent woman, which is a characteristic in which she still feels prides. Arnold also finds pride in her career and values the opportunities it brought her, but it was her life outside of work that brought Arnold true meaning. In addition to being a lawyer, she is a mother, a wife, and a person who is passionate about learning, art, and music. Arnold views herself as an optimistic person who takes one day at a time in order to get through hard times and make the most out of life.

Interview Date: 
October 9, 2019
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