Women’s History Month: ABCD women who lead

For more than 30 years, March has been designated Women’s History Month by presidential proclamation, and celebrates the contributions of women to this country and their respective fields of endeavor. At ABCD, women have a long history of leading – from Melnea Cass, the only woman appointed by Boston Mayor John Collins as a charter member of ABCD in 1962, to ABCD’S first woman president and CEO in 2022, Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq. During the 60 years between both appointments, 10 phenomenal women leaders have served as chair of  ABCD’s Board of Directors, providing governance, financial oversight, direction and representing the needs of the community. 

Dr. Mary Jane England served as ABCD board chair from 1973 – the year ABCD became a Title X grantee – until 1975. Witnessing the campaigns for social and economic rights for minorities, women, and the poor in the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. England responded to these issues through her work in community, public health services and mental health. Among her career achievements, Dr. England served as president of Regis College, her alma mater,  and as professor emeritus, Health Policy and Law at Boston University School of Public Health.

Vivienne S. Thomson, known as a “whirlwind in a wheelchair,” was ABCD board chair from 1977-1981. She advocated effectively for people with disabilities and for all underrepresented people in Greater Boston and across the state. In fitting remembrance of Thomson, the Minorities with Disabilities Advocacy Center in Jamaica Plain was renamed the Vivienne S. Thomson Independent Living Center. 

Jean M. Babcock joined the ABCD Board of Directors in 1975 and currently holds a Public Sector seat representing State Senator Lydia Edwards. She is a member of the Executive Committee and Finance Committee. Babcock previously worked in Public Affairs for the United States Postal Service and is a lifelong community leader and activist. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and has worked in areas of fiscal management and business administration. Babcock’s financial and business acumen coupled with her prior experience on the board make her an invaluable asset to the agency.

Maryellen F. Monahan began her career as a nurse at Boston City Hospital and later managed the Geiger Gibson Community Health Center in Dorchester – established in 1965 by ABCD and Tufts University – the first of its kind in the nation. She returned to her first love – being a school nurse at the Snowden International School and helping children. She touched many lives as a member of ABCD’s Board of Directors and as board chair from 1991-1994. 

Mary Chin joined the ABCD Board of Directors in 1984 and was board chair from 1994-1997. Currently, she serves in a Public Sector seat representing Boston City Councilor At-Large Erin J. Murphy and is a member of the Executive and Health Services Committees. In addition, Chin  serves on the board of Urban College of Boston which was founded by ABCD in 1967 as the Urban College Program. 

A graduate of Simmons College, Chin is executive director of the Asian American Civic Association.  

Margaret Keith joined the ABCD Board of Directors in 1980 representing the Jamaica Plain Area Planning Action Council and served until 1988. She was re-elected to the board in 1994 and served as chair from 1997 to 1999.

Thelma D. Burns was a longtime community activist and advocate. In 1968, during the height of the Civil Rights movement and social change in the nation, Burns was a Robert F. Kennedy Fellow in Washington, DC. She served on ABCD’s Board of Directors for more than 35 years in multiple capacities, including board chair from 1999-2002, vice chair and committee chair. For nearly 30 years, Burns was the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) director for the Belmont Public Schools. She also led the ABCD Dorchester Neighborhood Advisory Board for more than 15 years, among many other achievements.

Burns earned a bachelor’s in education from Boston University and a master’s of education in administration from Harvard University. In 2016, ABCD dedicated the Thelma D. Burns Building in honor of her decades of work. 

Jeanette Boone served as ABCD board chair from 2004-2008. Shortly after her arrival in the South End in 1982, Boone began advocating for the construction of mixed-income housing on behalf of residents who were being pushed out of their community by gentrification. Soon after, Boone became leader of the Ward 9 Democratic Committee, and in 1987 she helped start the Four Corners Development Corporation which built Langham Court apartments, an 84-unit mixed income development. 

John Kerry hired Boone as his executive assistant. When he was elected to the US Senate, he took Boone to Washington with him. 

Kathleen R. Flynn joined the ABCD Board of Directors in 1989 and served as board chair from 2006-2008. Today, she is in a Neighborhood Sector seat on the board representing the South Boston Area Planning Action Council Advisory Board. Flynn also serves on the Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Head Start & Child Care Resources Education Committee and the Personnel Advisory Committee.

Flynn is Deputy Collector with the City of Boston Treasury Department and earned her undergraduate degree from Boston State College. 

Juliette Mayers is founder and CEO of Inspiration Zone LLC (IZL), a strategic consulting firm that advises Fortune 500 corporations, large nonprofits and individual executives about creating diverse, welcoming and inclusive work environments. Mayers served as ABCD board chair from 2008-2010. She was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to the MassHire State Workforce Board, and she is a corporator on the board of Eastern Bank. 

Mayers holds an MBA from Simmons University and a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. 

Yvonne L. Jones served as ABCD board chair from 2017-2019. She serves on the Dorchester Neighborhood Service Center Advisory Board. A board member since 2005, Jones has worn many hats – Finance Committee member, first vice chair and chair of the ABCD Elder Services Committee. 

A veteran of the Massachusetts education system, Jones worked for Boston Public Schools as a Library and Reading Paraprofessional, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO) and as Site Director/Support Service Specialist at VIP Child Care. 

Jones holds a bachelor of science degree from Lesley University and a master’s in education administration from the University of Massachusetts.