Local government officials reflect on Women’s History Month

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Local government officials reflect on Women’s History Month
Karyn Polito, Beth Casavant, Hollie Lucht, Michelle Conlin, Theresa Flynn and Hannah Kane pose for a photo. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – March was Women’s History Month, and Shrewsbury leaders gathered to celebrate the occasion.

The senior center hosted several female local government officials on March 19, giving the community an “opportunity to honor and acknowledge women who lead transformative change,” according to the event flier, and hear different perspectives on the importance of women’s history.

Speakers at the event included former Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), Select Board Chair Beth Casavant, Council on Aging Director Hollie Lucht, and Select Board members Theresa Flynn and Michelle Conlin.

“I think it’s recent history for Shrewsbury to have women serving on the Select Board now, but I’ve always felt — and I moved here 27 years ago now — that Shrewsbury has been really supportive of women’s leadership,” Kane told the crowd at the event. “I’m inspired every day by women in Shrewsbury who jump in and say, ‘How can I help? What is needed?’ It’s something I take great pride in.”

Kane currently serves as House chair for the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators.

In her remarks, Polito mentioned Olive Borgatti, the talented bookkeeper behind Spag’s, the iconic Shrewsbury store.

While Spag’s was in its heyday, Borgatti balanced running the business and motherhood, moving her office into her home. The Shrewsbury Historical Society calls Borgatti the “backbone” of the business.

“Talk about being a woman so ahead of her time. It didn’t delay her. She didn’t remove herself from her career. She did it all, and she did it with a lot of support, and she was very successful at it,” said Polito.

“She was a pioneering woman making decisions at a time women weren’t making those choices, but they’re the same kinds of choices and challenges that exist today for women… trying to balance it all,” she said.

All Select Board members who spoke shared one thing in common — they all said they were inspired by Kane to run for office. Several speakers mentioned that Kane had recognized their talent and encouraged them to seek elected office during one-on-one meetings over coffee.

For Kane, it’s important to uplift and encourage fellow women whenever possible.

“I always talk about this push-pull with women. It’s our job to help identify [talent] and push, and it’s also the pulling mechanism. We also have to be in the room to advance things when they’re happening,” she told the audience.

Local government leaders shared the same sentiment.

“I want to help others — other women especially — in this community to see that there are great opportunities for leadership and that there are great people that will appreciate their contributions,” Flynn said.

“[When I ran for Select Board], I thought about what my three little boys will see. I wanted them to be able to see that women belong in these positions. We belong in positions of power and authority and decision-making and places that are important. They should never be afraid to see themselves in those positions, but also women in those positions, and for this to be normal for them,” said Conlin.

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