Remarkable Women 2015: Powerful Partnerships
From music to mechanical engineering, meet women in remarkable partnerships that really get the job done
This year’s Remarkable Women have created amazing partnerships and are using the power of collaboration to make big changes in economics, the arts, technology, media, education and more.
This year's women:
• Peggo Hodes and Songweavers: Peggo Hodes leads the Concord Community Music School group Songweavers.
• Kristen Leach and Lisa Cook: Kristen Leach is the New Hampshire Dance Institute’s artistic director and Lisa Cook is the residency director. Together they bring dance to more than 2,000 Monadnock Region students.
• Sarah Chaffee, Mary McGowan and Amanda McGowan Lacasse: The women behind McGowan Fine Art in Concord.
• Mary-Paige Provost and Jean Mackin: WMUR-TV’s “NH Chronicle” coordinating producer, Mary-Paige Provost and WMUR anchor and reporter, Jean Mackin, work together to air "Home at Last."
• Pam LaFlamme, Paula Kinney and Diana Nelson: Together they are helping to revive Berlin's economy.
• Dr. Leah Marangu and Nancy Van Scriver: Co-founders of Education for All Children.
• Lori Gioia and Sandi Pelletier: Together they run the Women in Technology Program.
• Judith Moyer and Dr. Laurel Ulrich: Together they work to record and preserve women's history.
• Womenaid of Greater Portsmouth: They've raised over $400,000 in financial assistance to families and individuals in Portsmouth, Rye, Greenland, New Castle and Newington.
Songweavers was the brainchild of local folk legend Carolyn Parrott. She led it for nearly 20 years until another local singing star, Peggo Hodes (seen here) took over. Not exactly a performing group (they only sing before an audience once a year), they prefer to call themselves “a force of nature.” Explains Hodes, “Our goal is to create community. We began as a choir for people who say they can’t sing — but everyone can sing, no matter what they tell me. It’s a basic birthright.”
And singing makes us happy, she adds. “It’s a whole body experience. The vibration we make together as a group is transformative.” She says members tell her that singing in Songweavers is better than therapy. “I know if I had an exhausting day, within five minutes of singing my mood will be different and my energy will be back.” Songweavers lift their voices at the Concord Community Music School, where this photo was taken and where Hodes teaches.
The arts are a fantastic way to teach children valuable life skills, but for both schools and families, money is often an obstacle. Enter New Hampshire Dance Institute’s artistic director Kristen Leach (left) and residency director Lisa Cook, who are bringing their program directly to more than 2,000 Monadnock Region students, making it a part of their normal class routine.
“The program asks children to give their most excellent selves to their work and take that discipline in dance and apply it to different aspects in life,” says Leach. The weekly class ends with a show with live orchestra accompaniment. The program includes approximately 24 different schools and is funded through the school districts and donors.
Both women believe strongly in dance as way to nurture the physical, social and cultural development of children in a fun and athletic way.
Sarah Chaffee, Mary McGowan and Amanda McGowan Lacasse
A Good Match
It wasn’t easy for Sarah Chaffee to get a job at McGowan Fine Art in Concord. “I interviewed three times over five years,” says Chaffee. But she wasn’t giving up — she knew she wanted to be part of the fine art business that Mary McGowan had created. Finally, McGowan said “yes.” That was in 1997. Chaffee (center) took over as director of the gallery and McGowan (left) concentrated on corporate consulting. “We quickly found out it was a good match,” Chaffee says. “Even though Mary is older, she’s more like a sister and we could communicate easily. We found our way together.”
When McGowan started the gallery back in the 1980s, it was challenging because there wasn’t a lot of demand. She began to reach outside of the state’s borders to find artists and buyers. It worked as a regional gallery, and has continued to grow since Chaffee’s arrival.” Mary’s proud of getting the business going and I’m proud of sustaining it,” Chaffee says.
When McGowan retired in 2011, her corporate consulting work was taken on by Amanda McGowan Lacasse (right). But McGowan is still active, involved and appreciated. Chaffee says, “She’s been a tremendous mentor.”
Mary-Paige Provost and Jean Mackin
Home at Last
You’ve probably seen it — the “Home At Last” segment on WMUR-TV’s “NH Chronicle,” where NH children who are living in foster homes or group homes are profiled in hopes of finding a family that wants to adopt them. Mary-Paige Provost, Chronicle’s coordinating producer, says, “Everyone deserves a place to call home.” The first profile was aired in 2014. Since then, seven of the nine featured children — most of them older or with special needs — have been adopted or are in the process.
The inspiration for “Home At Last” was a Chronicle story about the Heart Gallery, a project where professional photographers volunteer to take photos of children waiting for adoption in hopes the photos would help them get a permanent placement. After the story aired, Provost (right) and Jean Mackin, WMUR anchor and reporter, began to work with the state’s Division of Children, Youth and Families to “continue to use the children’s beautiful faces and spirits to reach out to people across the state and show them that they can help,” says Provost. “The people of New Hampshire are responding with open arms.”
“Your adventure starts here” — that’s the new motto of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, thanks in large part to three women who refused to see the city they love — Berlin — succumb to economic failure after the decline of the paper mill industry.
The time came, says Pam LaFlamme (at right), Berlin’s community development director, for them to stop depending on industry from outside the city and to start utilizing what they already have — access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural resources. Along with Paula Kinney (center), executive coordinator at the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce and a driving force behind the Berlin Main Street Program, and City Councilor Diana Nelson (left), they began to steer the city towards embracing tourism, and that started with ATVs.
With the annual Jericho ATV Festival already in place and access to the massive Ride the Wilds ATV trail network right in town, the three hatched a plan to open up all of the city’s streets to ATVs. There’s already been a big uptick in traffic. There’s much more in the works than ATV tourism, says Nelson: “Our goal is that, no matter what type of adventure you want, you can have it here.”
Nancy Van Sciver and Dr. Leah Marangu
Reach to Teach
They may often be thousands of miles apart, but Nancy Van Sciver of Rye and Dr. Leah Marangu of Kenya work closely to change the lives of Kenya’s children. Van Sciver is a co-founder of Education for All Children, which combines scholarships, mentoring and global connections so that underprivileged students in Kenya have the opportunity to further their education, hold good jobs and hopefully become strong leaders.
Marangu, as vice chancellor of African Nazarene University in Nairobi, has the contacts and knowledge to distribute scholarships to the poorest areas and find the brightest students. Sixty percent of students in Kenya are orphans and do not have the opportunity to attend high school as it’s not free.
Van Sciver won the Jamhuriwood Award for Humanitarian and Non-Profits in August 2010 and Marangu holds 20 international and national awards for her leadership and women’s studies. Van Sciver says, “Seeing the change in these students lives — it’s incredible.”
Sandi Pelletier and Lori Gioia
Many are working to lessen the achievement gap between men and women in engineering fields these days, but at BAE Systems in Nashua, they’ve been at it for 20 years.
Their Women in Technology is a collaborative program that has provided mentors and internships to more than 700 high school girls with strong math and science skills. Sandi Pelletier (at right), who helped pioneer the program, got her start at BAE, but notes, “When I was in high school there was nothing like this.”
Her partner in leading the program, Lori Gioia (left), adds, “Opening up possibilities for women brings in a diverse set of skills. It’s important to have a female perspective.”
It was just a simple cassette tape recorder — but it made all the difference. Back in the 1980s, as people increasingly had access to tape recorders, it allowed ordinary people to have more of a voice. They could create an oral history by recording their own or others’ experiences.
“Oral history added to and challenged the dominant history of the times, which tended to laud the famous, the public, the male and the white while ignoring or minimizing others,” says Judith Moyer, a UNH faculty emerita (right) who has created many oral histories in the years since then. She initiated or was part of projects that, among others, recorded New Hampshire pre-dial telephone operators, New England milkmen (and women) and shipyard workers. Her first oral history collaboration was capturing the history of the women of Warner, where she once lived. “Ultimately, 100 or more Warner women worked together in a magnificent collaboration strung over many years,” says Moyer.
The project, funded by the NH Humanities Council, was guided by the celebrated academic, Dr. Laurel Ulrich, a women’s history specialist then working at UNH and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Midwife’s Tale.” Their work on the Warner project led to Moyer writing a theatre piece, “It had to be done, so I did it.” The show toured for 20 years under the aegis of the Humanities Council, which awarded Moyer the Dunfey Award for New Hampshire history.
After Ulrich left UNH to become a history professor at Harvard, she and Moyer collaborated with a technical team to build the pioneering interactive website dohistory.org, based on “The Midwife’s Tale.” Moyer has high praise for her mentor: “Laurel's guiding hand has been that of the teacher who knows the path. Watching her, I knew what was possible.”
The Womenaid concept began as a social thing — a group of women in Washington, DC, who were meeting at one another’s homes after work to blow off a little steam over a bottle of wine and a bite to eat. They began collecting what they were saving by not eating out and donating that sum to a worthy charity. When they realized how much good they could do with just a little money, they grew more ambitious.
Since then, similar groups have sprung up all over, but few as prolific as Womenaid of Greater Portsmouth. Celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2015, they calculate they have raised and given more than $400,000 in financial assistance to families and individuals in Portsmouth, Rye, Greenland, New Castle and Newington. It’s a big number, but all the more significant because the individual grants are often for as little as a few hundred dollars.
Board member Helen Brewster says they partner with larger agencies who have already validated the recipient and done all they can to assist. “Sometimes it just takes a little more to get through a rough patch,” she says. “We provide the last piece of the puzzle.” Needs range from groceries and transportation to education and job training. The fact that small economic changes can make a big difference in life works both ways, Brewster says. “A heartbreaking theme that comes up from time to time is when those who have donated to us in the past find themselves in need of help.”
The group meets monthly with each board member taking a turn offering the hospitality of a kitchen table, some wine and a little food. Brewster says this is both pleasant and practical. “The social piece builds the trust between us so we work together beautifully. It’s informally formal and helps us stay careful, thoughtful and deliberate in our decisions.” To learn more or get involved, visit womenaidportsmouth.org.
Pictured (from left) are board members: Diana McNabb, Amy Craig, Helen Brewster, Eileen Sutherland, Joanne Knight and Holly Zurer (missing: Holly Adame, Hope Martin, Patty Cohen and board president Karen MacNair)