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The History of WTS-Boston’s Scholarships

scholarship_photo_1987

Ann Hershfang (left) with Governor Michael Dukakis,
Claire Barrett, Rep. Mary Jane Gibson and Jacquie Smith, colleagues from WTS in 1987.

 

Learn about the three women WTS-Boston’s Scholarships are named after as told by Ann Hershfang, July 2010.

[Jacquie Smith, Claire Barrett and Ann Hershfang] graduated from college in the 1950s/1960s when, for all but the most determined women, job possibilities--until marriage, children and probably suburbs--were secretary, nurse, social worker, teacher, editor.  The three of us did pretty much as expected--and also joined the League of Women Voters (LWV), a splendid outlet and training ground for women’s competence and energy.    

Then, in the late 1960s, anti-highway activism bloomed in metro Boston and in our different neighborhoods.  We separately joined the fray-- Jacquie and Claire aroused by the widening of Route 2 through Lexington, Lincoln and Concord,  Ann by a 4-lane road planned ½ block down at the end of her South End street.  We met in 1972 as volunteers on the State League of Women Voters (LWV) committee to study transportation issues.  For several years we worked together developing the LWV’s transportation position and achieved some public notice because the League has always been a respected voice on issues.

Because of our visibility through the League and in the anti-highway movement, we stood out when, in the early 1970s, the women’s liberation movement raised women’s and the public’s awareness and suddenly women had value as political assets.  In 1974, Governor Francis Sargent, a Republican, appointed Ann to the Massport board, the first woman to serve on a state transportation board.  Soon after, Governor Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, appointed Claire to the MBTA board, then Jackie to the Mass Aeronautics Commission.  We were lonely up there at the top—viewed as freaks by some fellow board members--with no one to talk to in the ladies restroom (always suspecting that the men’s restroom was where the real business was done).

So, with Ellen DiGeronimo, another Dukakis appointee and first woman Commissioner of the MA Department of Public Works (unfortunately later renamed MassHighway and its mandate shrunk to roads), we four began meeting regularly at dinner to share tactics, stories, laughs, comradeship.  These meetings gradually broadened into a group of women transportation professionals.  Not too much later, our group was asked by a similar group developing in Washington DC to join them as the Boston chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar.  And we did, reasoning that if there was strength in togetherness locally, there would be even more strength as part of a national organization.  And so it has proven.

 

 

 

 

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