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Trail-blazers to be honored by Women’s Fund

Two Franklin County trail-blazers are among 16 elder women from Western Massachusetts to receive the first “Standing On Her Shoulders Award” from the Women’s Fund of western Massachusetts.

Ethel “Risky” Case of Greenfield and Elaine Barkin of Leverett will be honored at the Women’s Fund’s 15th anniversary celebration today at the Mass Mutual Convention Center in Springfield.

Case, 91, a former Greenfield Community College dean, is being recognized for her life-long dedication to learning.

“She has paved the way for thousands to change their lives through education and has continually improved her own life through decades of study,” said Julie Kumble of the Women’s Fund.

Case was a Women’s Army Corps first lieutenant company commander for basic and overseas training units during World War II. Case had been a psychology and sociology professor for at least 10 years when she became the first woman dean at GCC, where she developed a teacher’s aid training program that became a state model.

Case was also founder of the local chapters of the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women (NOW). She was a founding board member of the Franklin County Community Development Corp. and was the first woman to sit on the Greenfield Finance Committee.

Barkin, 99, is being recognized as a tireless advocate for those who struggled with poverty, discrimination and inequity.

Barkin entered Smith College at age 16, attending the college’s School of Social Work. In her first job, she worked at a soup kitchen for the “needy and worthy.” Her role was to assess the “worthiness” of those who came there. Believing that anyone asking for food assistance was, by definition, “needy and worthy,” Barkin did not turn anyone away.

For the next 20 years, she worked to support unwed mothers in either raising their children or in finding adoptive homes for the children.

In 1955, Barkin left her career to raise her children, but continued her social advocacy. Barkin has lived in Leverett for at least 40 years and has been awarded that town’s Boston Post Gold Cane as its oldest resident.

She has been affiliated with the Franklin County Home Care Corp. since its inception in 1975, and served on that agency’s board for 25 years.

“Consistently working to influence the perceptions of opinions of others, Elaine Barkin is a model for social justice,” said Kumble.

The 16 award-winners come from Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties and were nominated for the award by members of their own communities. All are between the ages of 73 to 99.

Besides a cocktail hour, dinner and an awards presentation, photographic portraits of the women by Robert Charles Studio of Photography will be on display today, with each winner to receive her own portrait.

Also, oral history interviews with each recipient have been done, and each woman will receive a copy of her recorded interview.

“These elderly women have really paved the way for what women are doing now,” said Julie Holt of the Women’s Fund.

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