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Middlesex DA pushes for domestic violence bill after Jared Remy case

December 14, 2013 10:02 AM

Months after her office was criticized for its handling of a domestic violence case that ended in murder, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan is pushing legislation that increases penalties on defendants with a history of violence and in cases where the victim is a household or family member.

Ryan testified before the Joint Committee on Public Safety Thursday in favor of a bill (H 3242) that broadens the aggravated assault and battery statute when the defendant has previously been convicted of certain crimes, including violating a restraining order. The bill, entitled “an act relative to protecting domestic violence victims from repeat offenders,” was filed by Rep. Carolyn Dykema, a Democrat from Holliston.

The legislation also increases penalties for a defendant on an assault and battery charge who violates a judge’s order not to contact the victim as a condition of release on bail. Currently, a defendant is subject to increased penalties only when the assault and battery occurs in violation of a restraining order, according to Ryan.

“Right now the legislation does not provide for violation of the court order, a stay away order, to be an aggravating factor. This bill would remedy that,” she said. “This bill would say that if you have been ordered by the court to stay away from the victim and you, in fact, violate that order, commit an assault and battery, that will be an aggravating factor. It just increases the number of aggravating factors.”

The legislation gives prosecutors more tools to recommend higher sentences, and gives judges more discretion in sentencing, without creating mandatory minimum sentences, Ryan said.

Ryan is pushing for passage of four domestic violence bills, according to a spokeswoman. “It is part and parcel of a broader review of domestic violence legislation to increase penalties and discretion in sentencing that began when the DA took office,” spokeswoman MaryBeth Long said.

Ryan testified before lawmakers in July on a handful of bills, including one to create a new crime of strangulation and strangulation with serious bodily injury. In October, the Senate passed a domestic violence bill that included the strangulation measure. The bill is awaiting action in the House.

In August, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office was criticized for how it handled the case against Jared Remy, who was in court on an assault and battery charge two days before he allegedly killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, a case that has spurred a reexamination of laws intended to prevent domestic violence.

Remy was arrested for allegedly slamming his longtime girlfriend into a mirror, and the DA’s office was publicly criticized for not asking a judge to continue to hold him, based on a past history of domestic violence charges, or ordering him to stay away from Martel following his arraignment.

In the wake of Martel’s murder, House Speaker Robert DeLeo asked Attorney General Martha Coakley to partner with him in looking at the state’s restraining order laws.

Dykema, who filed the bill in January, said abusers often have a history of violence before the domestic violence incident that should raise a red flag.

The bill recognizes if the defendant has a past history of violent behavior, they would be eligible for increased penalties on the domestic violence charge, Dykema said.

Dykema told the News Service the issue hit close to home for her after a Westborough mother was murdered in a domestic violence incident several years ago. After the woman’s death, she worked with former Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone, and then Ryan when she took office, Dykema said.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, Dykema said.

“The most frustrating thing I hear from the public when you read these tragedies in the paper, there is a clear history of violence. People ask themselves, and I ask myself, why weren’t we able to recognize this…to discern the clear signs. This (bill) allows us to recognize those past patterns of behavior.”

State Sen. Barrett joins committees on health, adoption, early edication

December 12, 2013 12:40 PM

State Sen. Mike Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who also represents Waltham and other nearby communities, has been named to three committees specializing in health disparities, adoption costs, and early education access, according to a statement from his office.

State Sen. Mike Barrett
He was recently named to the Health Disparities Council, the Early Education and Care Commission, and a newly-created task force on the adoption process in Massachusetts. The Health Disparities Council, created in 2006, looks for solutions to health care inequalities. The council includes hospitals, insurance companies, community health centers, and the Massachusetts Medical Society, among others. Originally charged with examining racial and ethnic disparities, the council included people with disabilities earlier this year after Barrett pushed for it, according to his office. Representatives noted that he also serves as Senate chair on the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. His office, citing the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that 13 percent of disabled Massachusetts residents report getting to a doctor is prohibitively expensive, compared to 6 percent of people without a disability. That gap is small relative to other states, but Barrett said in his statement that more can be done. When people with disabilities do get to the doctor’s office, Barrett said, they face further challenges: Earlier this year, a survey of more than 250 specialists in major American cities found that fewer than 10 percent of offices had disability-friendly equipment, such as height-adjustable examining tables, and most lacked specially-trained employees, the statement said.

“On the whole, people with disabilities smoke at a higher rate and have higher obesity numbers,” said Barrett, a healthcare IT specialist by profession, in his statement. “When you dig deeper, you’ll see this population also has a harder time seeing doctors due to high costs.”

Barrett has also been appointed to a newly-formed adoption task force which will recommend ways to reduce costs and delays in the adoption process. The task force, led by children and families department commissioner Olga Roche, will consult with chief justices of the probate and family and juvenile courts to come up with solutions.

Adoption expenses consist of home study and legal fees, among other costs, Barrett's office said.

Barrett will also serve on the recently-created Early Education and Care Commission, which will study early education's high costs and care services, and look at ways to expand access.

Citing the nonprofit Early Education for All, Barrett's office said 40 percent of pre-school aged children in Massachusetts are not enrolled in an early education program.

“Sixteen percent of kids who aren’t reading at a proficient level when they finish third grade end up not graduating from high school on time,” Barrett said. “We should be investing in their future from an early age.”

For more information, visit Barrett's legislative page.

Follow us on Twitter: @yourtownwaltham, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

Groton to auction fire vehicles, other surplus equipment

December 4, 2013 06:25 PM
Psst … Wanna Buy A Fire Truck? How About a Fire Station? (via The Groton Line)

Art Campbell | The Groton Line If you’re dreaming of getting a fire engine as the perfect holiday gift — a real fire engine, mind you — not a toy, your dreams could come true Tuesday December 10. If you dream a little bigger and you’ve been…

Massachusetts hunting, fishing licenses for 2014 available

November 30, 2013 04:48 PM

BOSTON (AP) — The new year is a few weeks away but it’s not too early to think about 2014 hunting licenses.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife says 2014 hunting, sporting, fishing, and trapping licenses will be available for purchase starting on Monday.

They can be purchased at all license vendor locations, MassWildlife District offices, the West Boylston Field Headquarters, and at

Anyone 15 or older needs a license to hunt or for freshwater fishing.

Freshwater fishing licenses for minors ages 15 to 17 are free and can be obtained online.

The department also reminds hunters that all deer harvested during shotgun season must be checked at a check station. Online checking is not available from Dec. 2 until Dec. 14.

Bear sightings on the way up in suburbs of Boston

November 26, 2013 09:36 PM
Your New Groton Neighbors, The Bears, May Be Dropping By (via The Groton Line)

James Desrosiers When Chris Campbell glanced out the parlor window of her Main Street home in Groton a few weeks ago, she was shocked to see a big face staring back. It belonged to a black bear, peeking in at her. “Wow … It was like being in a zoo…

Concord-Carlisle School Committee renews superintendent's contract, calls for civility after contentious forum

November 13, 2013 08:20 AM

The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to award Superintendent Diana Rigby a three-year contract that will boost her annual compensation to $218,545 if she receives a “proficient” performance review next spring.

The committee also struck back at critics, who showed up en masse at a community coffee meeting last month to lambaste Rigby’s leadership, and who committee members said had “crossed the line of civility” and drowned out other, more moderate voices.

“There’s only a certain level of abuse you can take as an individual,” said committee co-chair Louis Salemy. “It’s one thing to disagree, it’s another thing to disagree in a disrespectful manner.”

Some residents at the coffee were angry over the Oct. 22 School Committee vote to enter into contract negotiations with Rigby for another 3-year stint, and cited a number of issues that have plagued the district, including a 2012 survey that showed low teacher morale, the mishandling of a high school building project which caused state officials to threaten to withhold construction funds, and a perceived lack of transparency by the district.

But school officials Tuesday night defended Rigby and their decision to keep her, and said that the district’s vocal critics did not speak for the majority.

“A few attendees chose an inappropriate tone to criticize the School Committee and the superintendent in the name of the community, and to accuse the School Committee of not listening to the community,” said committee member Kathi Snook. “I am saddened that this one group of residents organized and coordinated an effort to monopolize the forum and the public dialogue in this manner.”

Co-chair Pamela Gannon urged community members now to “move forward.”

“It’s time to remember that our goal is to provide the very best education to the children from Concord, Carlisle, and Boston who are in our care,” she said.

Rigby’s new contract, which will begin July 1 of next year, includes a 3 percent raise contingent upon her receipt of a “proficient” rating in her next evaluation. Her current salary is $212,180, and her evaluation this summer rated her “proficient.” The new contract extends the length of notice Rigby must give from five months to 12 months if she wants to terminate the contract, and it also eliminates roll-over language that automatically extended the contract year to year if the school committee were to take no action on it.

Committee member Phil Benincasa, who cast the lone dissenting vote Oct. 22 against renewing Rigby’s contract, pointed to the evaluation requirement tied to Rigby’s raise as the key that allowed him to vote to support it.

“I think it underscores the fact that the School Committee has heard some of the concerns that are registered by the community and takes them seriously,” said Benincasa.

Salemy said in an interview after the meeting that no part of the contract was a response to criticism. The decision to tie Rigby’s raise to her evaluation, he said, was made simply because her evaluation has not yet happened.

The roll-over language was eliminated, he said, because it was weak and did not make sense, and the notification period was extended to give the committee enough time to locate a new superintendent in the event that Rigby decides to leave the district.

Salemy said he did not expect Rigby to leave. Rigby said in an interview after the meeting that she is currently planning to stay the full three years, but did not rule out the possibility that something could change.

“Today I’m not preparing to do anything but to stay, but that’s today,” said Rigby. “Lots of things can happen in people’s lives. My goal is to stay for three years. But we can’t guarantee what happens in the future.”

The meeting Tuesday was attended by about 15 residents, only one of whom spoke about the committee’s contract vote.

“I just came tonight to really ask you to come back from Never Never Land,” said Mav Pardee, who said she was not part of any organized group and had never been to a meeting where people were critical of the superintendent. “I think you are underestimating the mood in the community, and I think you’ve contributed to it by rushing this contract through… I think you’re dreaming if you think this is going to end.”

Rigby has cited a silent majority that she says supports her administration, and committee members Tuesday described critics as a small and organized group. Salemy said he, too, believes there is a silent majority and a vocal minority, and in an interview after the meeting described the behavior of critics at the coffee as being “like an angry mob.”

Other committee members said they had heard from some residents who attended the coffee that they felt intimidated and silenced by the people who spoke negatively.

“Every day we receive comments from parents, community members and students that are very positive, but those are private,” said Rigby in an interview after the meeting. “What you tend to hear publicly is all the criticism.”

But Benincasa said after the meeting that residents have a responsibility to make their opinions known.

“If there is a silent majority, then shame on them for not speaking up in support of her. If they are timid and afraid, then in effect they’ve abstained,” he said.

Concord, he said, is a town with a long history of civility, tolerance and openness, and when residents feel they are not being listened to, they will make their concerns known.

“In this case, a number of folks have stepped over the line of civility. The question is, what drove them to that point?” Benincasa said. “I continue to be hopeful that we will resolve these issues and be able to overcome our differences.”

The committee decided to postpone the next community coffee meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 19, to Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Evan Allen can be reached at

Concord-Carlisle school committee criticized at forum for renewing superintendent's contract

October 30, 2013 10:00 AM

Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee members came under fire at a forum Tuesday for their decision to renew superintendent Diana Rigby’s contract for three years, sparking criticism from residents who say the district has suffered financial and emotional turmoil under Rigby’s five years of leadership.

Earlier this month, the School Committee voted 6 to 1, with member Phil Benincasa casting the dissenting vote, to start negotiations on a three-year contract extension for Rigby, whose current contract expires in June. Members are expected to vote on a final deal in late November or early December.

However, dozens of residents flocked to the Tuesday meeting and railed against the decision, citing several high-profile problems in the district.

“A lot of us were surprised and deeply concerned that Ms. Rigby’s contract was extended given the tumult in our community,” said Jennifer Montbach. “Our community is crying out for a reset.”

Three School Committee members and Rigby were present at the forum.

Rigby, who makes $212,180, defended her position after the meeting, citing a silent majority in the region who are content with the school systems and administration.

“For all the criticism we hear, there’s also lots of support -- these are the people who aren’t here tonight, because they are satisfied with the schools,” she said.

School Committee chairman Louis Salemy and vice-chair Kathi Snook held their ground on the decision to grant Rigby a contract extension and Salemy said the committee would listen not only to the vocal critics at the meeting but to "many different voices in our community."

Benincasa, the third committee member at the forum, referred residents to the statement he has issued on his vote against the extension in which he spoke of a chasm between the school administration and the community "around faith and unity of purpose.".

At the Tuesday forum, which aimed to promote transparency, dozens of residents admonished administrators for a lack of communication with the public. Some also alluded to the mishandling of planning the new regional high school, which caused state officials last year to threaten to withhold construction funds.

Most residents Tuesday emphasized diminished teacher morale, which they tied to a decision by Thoreau Elementary School Principal Kelly Clough not to renew the contract of Merrie Najimy, a veteran third grade teacher and president of the local teachers union. Hundreds of teachers and parents rallied in Monument Square in May to protest Clough’s decision; Clough resigned the next month, saying she was pursuing other career opportunities.

Many participants Tuesday also referred to the 2012 TELL Mass survey of Massachusetts schools, where only 10 percent of Thoreau teachers said there an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in the school. Only 18.5 percent said they thought that school leadership consistently supports teachers.

“We have a crisis right now,” said resident Dinny McIntyre. “I deplore the hierarchical controlling climate that has been set. I think that’s why so many teachers are unhappy, and that affects student learning.”

Many said they worried that teachers dissatisfied with the system were unable to voice their concerns in a bureaucratic complaint process overseen by their bosses, leading to low morale among the staff.

“I have had discussions with at least a dozen teachers, and they all told me they have a lack of faith and trust and feeling of respect coming from the administration,” said resident Sigmund Roos. “I don’t think this community can bear any longer the lack of faith expressed by teachers.”

Najimy, who was in attendance Tuesday, said she appreciated the School Committee hosting the forum but said they had a long way to go.

“I hope this will get us to a place to see things the way they are, so we can structurally change things so they can be better,” Najimy said. “We really need the School Committee to watch closely and listen carefully.”

Other residents complained that the School Committee members were not making themselves accessible enough to teachers and the community. One resident said a complaint she sent to administrators went unacknowledged; another said she was frustrated with board members not communicating with teachers or conducting site visits.

Residents said they were also concerned about Rigby’s three-year extension, noting that she should have been offered a shorter contract. Others suggested administrators draft a contract with incentives for Rigby to make improvements in a measurable way.

“We can put it in a clause provision that ties Diana’s continued tenure to improvement and results,” Roos said, which was met with applause. “You need to recognize the serious problem of trust and respect. Let’s put this in the contract and move past this.”

Although School Committee members acknowledged discontent in the district, they said their decision to extend Rigby’s contract was final.

“This is not a voting process,” said Snook. “We had to look at all the information we had to make the best choice.”

As for going forward, board members said they would take into account Tuesday’s suggestions, but noted that other less vocal opinions also would be heard.

“We take into consideration all members of the community during contract negotiations, and there are many different voices in our community,” Salemy said after the meeting.

Benincasa, the dissenting School Committee member, and the other board members referred residents to their voting statements posted on the School Committee’s website.

“The wellspring of trust and respect, in my judgment, has run dry and the chasm between administration and community around faith and unity of purpose has grown so wide as to be impossible to refill or narrow in three years or any reasonable length of time,” Benincasa wrote in his statement. “Thus I have concluded that the community and schools would be best served by a change in direction and in leadership.”

For more information, visit the School Committee’s website.

Follow Jaclyn Reiss on Twitter: @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

Fun ways to celebrate Halloween west of Boston

October 20, 2013 12:27 PM

On the one hand, there is the kitschy Halloween beloved by small children, with silly or clever costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, and mountains of candy. On the other hand, there is the haunted-house fun of a good scare — be it from a gory costume or a spooky noise.

While traditional house-to-house trick-or-treating may still be the best way to spend Halloween itself, there are also any number of ways to explore the other dimensions of the holiday -- whether your preference leans more toward a walk through a graveyard or a craft activity.

Here some of the many ways to celebrate Halloween in communities west of Boston this year.

-- Halloween Walk and Tour of the Old Burying Ground in Lexington takes place Saturday (Oct 26) at 6:30 p.m. and leaves from the Depot Building, 13 Depot Square. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children, with discounts for Lexington Historical Society members. For reservations, more information, call 781-862-1703 or go to

-- Frightful Friday at Gore Place, 52 Gore St., Waltham, in its final installment this week, has tours starting at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Admission is $15 adults, $10 for ages 5 through 12 and Gore Place members. Capacity is limited. For tickets, call 781-894-2798 or visit

-- Murder at the Masquerade takes place at Merchants Row in the Colonial Inn, 48 Monument Square, Concord, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:15. The ticket price, which includes a gourmet three-course dinner, is $69. For reservations, e-mail or call 978-371-2908, ext 544.

-- Spookapella, a concert by North Shore Acapella and guests, takes place Saturday Oct 26 cq/ts at the Center for Arts, 14 Summer St., Natick. The show begins at 8 p.m.; tickets are $22, or $20 for TCAN members. For tickets or information, call 508-647-0097 or go to

-- Halloween Open House at Dana Hall School of Music, 103 Grove St. in Wellesley, is next Sunday, (October 27)2-4 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are encouraged; call 781-237-6542 or e-mail

-- Pumpkin Patch, a seasonal party held annually by the Sudbury Valley Trustees at Wolbach Farm on Wolbach Road in Sudbury, is scheduled for Saturday(Oct 26). Admission is free for SVT members; $2 per person for nonmembers, with a family maximum of $10. For more details, call 978-443-5588 or go online to

-- Decorate a Bag at Artbeat, 212A Mass Ave. in Arlington, Saturday (Oct 26)from noon to 7 p.m., and next Sunday (Oct 27) from noon to 5 p.m. Admission and supplies are free. For more information, call 781-646-2200 or go to

-- Halloween Family Day at the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History, on the Regis College campus at 235 Wellesley St. in Weston, takes place Saturday (Oct 26)from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 781-768-8367 or go to

-- Welcome to Our [Halloween] Home at the Orchard House, 399 Lexington Road, Concord, offers a special after-hours tour Saturday scheduled for Saturday(Oct 26)from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m. Admission $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and college students, $8 for ages 6-17, and $4 for ages 2-6. A family rate for two adults and up to four youths for this event will be offered at $30. Space is limited; reservations can be made by calling 978-369-4118, ext. 106; for more information, go to

-- Tales of the Night at Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, 208 South Great Road in Lincoln, takes place Thursday and Friday (Oct 24 and 25)from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $11 before Wednesday, Oct. 23, or after that for $13. Call 781-259-2218 or go to

Clark, Addivinola win their party primaries in races to replace Ed Markey

October 15, 2013 09:45 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Democrat Katherine Clark and Republican Frank Addivinola have captured their respective party’s nominations in the special election primary for Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District.

Clark, a state senator from Melrose, will face off against Addivinola, a Boston attorney, in the Dec. 10 special election to fill the U.S. House seat left vacant by Edward Markey’s election to the Senate.

Seven Democrats and three Republicans had battled for the chance to represent the district that includes communities north and west of Boston.

Clark beat fellow Democratic candidates Belmont state Sen. William Brownsberger, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, former Lexington school committeeman Martin Long, Stoneham resident Paul John Maisano, Ashland state Sen. Karen Spilka and Medford state Rep. Carl Sciortino.

Addivinola defeated fellow Republicans Michael Stopa, a Harvard scientist from Holliston, and Tom Tierney, a veteran from Framingham.

Miss Universe Taj Mahal controversy points to India's varied views of the icon

October 11, 2013 11:04 AM

When it comes to pageants, more storms are brewing in that tea cup called business of beauty.

Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo, is facing charges for “disrespecting” the Taj Mahal. Culpo posed for photographers with branded shoes while sitting on the Diana Seat, a marble ledge in front of the white mausoleum named after the late British princess who visited in 1992.

Something that happened in 1992 is only recent history -- and by Indian standards, that is not even counted as history but a significant date a few decades ago. The latest research has put the date of the origin of the Indus Valley Civilization at 6,000 years before Christ, which contests the current theory that the settlements around the Indus began around 3750 BC. The monuments or physical structures of historical significance remain identifying markers of culture and is very much a part of life in India.

To talk a bit about the Taj Mahal: In 1612, Mumtaz Mahal was married to Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor. Mumtaz her husband were inseparable and accompanied him on his journeys and military expeditions. She was his comrade, his counselor, and inspired him to acts of charity and benevolence towards the weak and the needy. She bore him fourteen children, and died in childbirth in 1630.

The grief-stricken Shah Jahan was determined to perpetuate her memory for immortality and decided to build his beloved wife the finest sepulcher ever - a monument of eternal love. It was Shah Jahan's everlasting love for Mumtaz that led to the genesis of the Taj Mahal. The sad circumstances which attended the early death of the empress who had endeared herself to the people inspired all his subjects to join in the emperor's pious intentions. After twenty-two laborious years, and the combined effort of over twenty thousand workmen and master craftsmen, the complex was finally completed in 1648 on the banks on the river Yamuna in Agra, the capital of Mughal monarchs.

UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1983. Today The Taj Mahal attracts from 2 to 4 million visitors annually, with more than 200,000 from overseas. Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must either walk from car parks or catch an electric bus.

From the Indian point of view the Taj Mahal is part of Mughal history. As an imposing historical structure it evokes the ideology and what academics call the constructed collective memory and the life style that has been proposed to the public. People form connections between themselves and the city through shared memory and this serves as a reminder of culture and place identity. This goes for any historical structure and defacing or destroying any historical structure anywhere in the world results in public outcry. Remember when the Lincoln Memorial was vandalized with green paint in July this year? When the perpetrator was finally in custody questions were raised about her immigration status and mental health.

Coming back to Culpo, the question is how the team that supports the Miss Universe franchise not be cognizant of the rules and regulations that ought to be followed in another country? Olivia Culpo was brought there on assignment and my understanding is that she was visiting India on work not leisure. Visitors must take off their shoes while visiting this mausoleum. Shoes are however allowed where Olivia Culpo was sitting but placing them on the seat which allegedly was done tantamounts to sacrilege.

Over the years the Taj Mahal has featured in many announcements or advertisements that have to do with India. It became the symbol of what India has to offer. To increase tourism India has also opened doors through relaxing visas for some countries at least. And foreign investment and brands have been let into the country which was not the case some years ago.

Photo shoots for different products have included the Taj, but according to the Archaeological Survey of India, “there are strict guidelines against any sort of branding and promotion at Taj Mahal” and Culpo’s photo shoot conducted was without prior permission.

Indian culture now struggles with varied perceptions of what life should look like - on the one hand is the space of a global, cosmopolitan culture and, on the other, the space of what is local. The need to be identified by a sense of belonging to a specific place sometimes wins over the global identity. And yet undoubtedly there is constant communication between each of the identities.

Culpo who through social media has expressed her awe and happiness of being in India has perhaps now opened her eyes to cultural norms different that are new to her. And India rejoices and cherishes every visitor as they step into the country. While she struggles to respectfully get out of this glitch, for Indian and Indians the struggle is to preserve historical markers of identity and re-representing them as public places for the world to enjoy. Struggles of different kinds – both have somehow to do with place, yours and mine.

Rajashree Ghosh is a resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Waltham.

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