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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“Solidarity to the End”

Women of Subs
Women of Subs

This past election year brought many changes: the Democrats taking over the executive office for Massachusetts, the first African-American governor, the first female African-American Chief of Staff for the governor, the first Latina judge in Chelsea and the first female Suffolk Superior Court Clerk.

On March 8, UMass Boston honored International Women’s Day by hosting an event titled, “Women of Substance: A Celebration of Women Leaders in Massachusetts.”

The Keynote Speakers for the event were Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Chief Staff for Governor Deval Patrick; The Honorable Diana Maldonado, Chelsea District Court Judge; and Maura Hennigan, Suffolk Superior Court Clerk.

Each speaker was asked to share with the audience their experiences on how they, as women, were they able to get to where they are now, and what struggles they had to overcome to get there.

Wallace-Benjamin was a baby boomer who benefited from her parents experience of the Civil Rights Movement, and witnessed the establishment of Affirmative Action. She attended Wesley College in 1978. According to Wallace-Benjamin, she was able to “kick down the doors of Wesley and other colleges showing that race and gender was not to be dismissed” because of her parents’ involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.

Her faith in the Civil Rights Movement and Affirmative Action helped some 10,000 children and families through the program “Home for the Little Wanderers” eventually led her to earn the office she now holds.

Wallace-Benjamin undertook the difficult task of leading and updating organizations she participated in into the 21st century. She led diverse communities and set up channels of communication between them.

Wallace-Benjamin believes that now her biggest challenge is in her new role as Chief Deputy under Governor Patrick. She hopes to extend this role further by working toward removing the state’s $1.3 billion deficit.

According to Diana Maldonado, Chelsea District Court Judge, she got to where she is today was through “faith, persevering, hard work, and lots of help from family and friends.”

As a Latina, Maldonado had to overcome being stereotyped when she was appointed to the Chelsea Judicial Court.

When Maldonado was appointed to her current position in 1998, she realized that even though woman judges were accepted, they were not the norm. However, as awkward it was to be a Latina judge, she was able to face her challenges and persevere.

Maldonado said she is hopeful for the next generation to come, that times are better today than generations before, and is very hopeful that things will continue on down the same road, following the same patterns.

“Take advantage of all that is offered to them and to have, faith in things to come, but most of all, don’t let anyone chip away your self worth we are strong and do not need to be afraid to stand-alone, because we are not alone,” Maldonado said.

Maura Hennigan, Suffolk Superior Court Clerk, stated that in the past only one seat was made available to a female out of the nine representatives of Boston city government. Today out of the nine seats there are four fresh new faces, two white males, one black male and one white female.

In 2004, Hennigan decided after 24 years on the city council to run for Clerk Magistrate. Hennigan took it upon herself to fund her own campaign and, despite this not being a popular decision, she put her money “where her mouth was” and prevailed.

She prevailed, according to Hennigan, “because of people, because people will respect you if you stand up for what you believe in even if you have no experience at all, people will respect you because you are the only voice out of many willing to take a chance on creating a new future.”

Hennigan brought hope and faith to the future individual woman of substance. She claimed “that no matter what the individual woman may start out doing we should not be afraid – never mind if people tell you can’t reach beyond; do it anyways, tell yourself regardless of your background that what ever you as an individual decides to do remember it is not stupid and never let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Hennigan left the audience and the young women of today on a positive note. “Don’t be afraid to realize it doesn’t matter where you come from; doesn’t matter what you look like; it doesn’t matter if you are a woman of means or not all you have to have is the desire and the will that you can do it,” she said.

This celebratory day was sponsored by The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and social Consequences, The Mauricio Gaston Institue for Latino Community Development, and Public Policy, and The McCormick Graduate Schools Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy.