Women on the Front Lines

There were women who worked in the printing presses in Norwood. A few had positions in management, but most worked on the floor. Clara Berwick, Jane Williams and Ligia Carlson all worked for thirty years at their jobs. Clara Berwick was the president of Berwick & Smith, Jane Williams worked for the Plimpton Press as the Director of the Personnel Department, and Ligia Carlson worked at the Plimpton Press in  the book bindery. The jobs they held for these book making companies were important, even if they had different levels of influence. It is unfortunate to note pictures of these women are hard to find, the best for Berwick and Williams was photos of their homes.

Clara Wentworth (Rich) Berwick-Walker

(April 26, 1873 – December 28, 1964)

Clara W. (Rich) Berwick-Walker’s Norwood home. (from the collection of LL Kearney)

Clara Wentworth (Rich) Berwick Walker was born in Cohasset, Massachusetts to Charles H. Rich and Clara Bourne Pratt. She was a very unusual woman for her day. For approximately thirty years, from 1917 to around 1947, she was the president of Berwick & Smith, the printing department of the Norwood Press. This position was a non-traditional role for a woman at that time, and yet, Berwick-Walker did not hesitate to leave her socialite life behind and do something many people would have viewed as scandalous.

Berwick-Walker was educated in Norwood’s public schools, and then attended Boston University’s School of Business Administration. She was married first to Walter Jones Berwick, he was the son of James Berwick, owner of Berwick & Smith. When Walter Berwick died unexpectedly in 1917, Berwick-Walker took over running Berwick & Smith. Berwick-Walker remarried June 10, 1919 to John Jacob Walker, who was eighteen years her junior. This couple divorced in 1950. Berwick-Walker was a collector of fine art and by the 1950s she began donating her collections to museums and universities, such as the Smithsonian, Brandeis College and Trinity College.

Clara Wentworth (Rich) Berwick-Walker died December 28, 1964 in Norwood, just a few months shy of 92 years old. She led an incredible life, yet when one searches for information on it, very little can be found. Growing up in a middle-class family and then becoming one of Norwood’s socialites, after her first husband died, she put that traditional lifestyle behind her to run the family business, a large printing company with clients all over the world. She held this position for approximately thirty years before retiring, but what can be found on her are snippets of her social life and her philanthropic donations. There is nothing on her professional life except for listings in directories. This really speaks to how professional women were viewed at the time. Silently.

Jane Louise (Comey) Williams

(February 5, 1879 – February 1952)

Jane C. Williams’ Holliston home. (Courtesy of Google Street View)

Jane C. Williams worked for the Plimpton Press as the Director of the Personnel Department for over thirty years. Previously, she had been a schoolteacher, a traditional career for a woman. Yet, Williams took a managerial job in a large company, where it was her job to oversee an entire department, certainly not a traditional job for a woman at that time. Jane Louise (Comey) Williams was born in Newton, Massachusetts, daughter of Aratus Winthrop Comey and Clarissa Anna Leland. Williams attended the Newton public schools, and graduated from Boston University in 1902 with a Bachelor in Philosophy. In 1904, her family moved to Holliston, Massachusetts, where Jane took a job as a teacher at Holliston High School. She married Arthur Irving Williams on October 9, 1906, in Holliston, but the marriage did not last long. Jane began working for the Plimpton Press shortly after the 1910 census was taken. She was a dynamic employee and she quickly became a spokesperson for the benefits of the Scientific Taylor System of Management. She wrote an article on the many ways the Plimpton Press made a positive work environment for their employees and she spoke at many venues on this subject. She also spoke on opportunities in the workforce for women.

Jane C. Williams was a single woman who broke through the barriers of traditional women’s roles. She was a leader at the Plimpton Press in her role as Director of Personnel, she was a leader for other personnel directors and women to whom she gave speeches, and she was a leader in her own community of Holliston, by serving on many town committees and boards. Williams appears to be someone who met challenges head on and broke barriers.

Ligia Jane (Radzwill) Carlson

(August 13, 1913 – April 11, 2001)

Ligia Radzwill on her wedding day. (courtesy of Cynthia Pinkham)

Ligia Jane Radzwill Carlson was born in Lawrence, MA, and came to Norwood as a teenager. She attended public schools and graduated from Norwood High School. She worked in the bindery of the Plimpton Press from the late 1930s to when the Norwood facility closed in 1973, and then continued to work at the Plimpton Mansfield facility. Carlson’s story is one that still can be told, as she has many nieces and nephews alive today who recall her stories of working at the Plimpton Press. She worked in the bindery, was where many women found jobs in most bookmaking companies, at the Plimpton Press

Ligia Jane Radzwil was born to Polish immigrants, Wladyslaw “William” Radzwell (aka “Radziwilowicz”) and Joanna Naruzewicz. The family moved to Norwood, and settled in the “Flats” neighborhood around 1915. In the late 1940s Ligia married John Severin Carlson, who also worked for the Plimpton Press. In the late 1950s Ligia and John moved to Clinton, Massachusetts and worked at a printing press in that town. John died suddenly in 1963, and Legia returned to Norwood to be near family and got a job at the Plimpton Press. In her later years there, she served as the secretary for the bookbinders union. John and Ligia did not have any children, because of this Legia, or “Aunt Ligie” as she was called, doted on all her nieces and nephews. Ligia (Radzwill) Carlson died April 11, 2001 in Norwood, she is remembered fondly as a kind, and funny, and loving woman.

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