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Profiling the Female Business Community of Block Island and the Socioeconomic Results of Isolated Gentrification

Introduction: Welcome to Block Island - Rachel A.G. Gilman
I was one of the recipients of the Dean's Award for Summer Research from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study for the Summer of 2017. I proposed an in depth look at the female business community in Block Island, Rhode Island, and how this had developed and changed over the last fifty years as the island became more populated and, arguably, more gentrified. Despite the island being an incredibly matriarchal society where women dominate the industries that tourists are most privy to (hotels and lodging, shops, and restaurants) in a place where much of the overall income is dominated by seasonal tourism, the wage gap between genders was quite large.
For my project, I was able to spend about two weeks on Block Island at the very beginning of their summer season. There, I interviewed and profiled a number of women (both lifelong residents and those who had more recently migrated to the island) who owned and operated businesses or held high positions in the community in government or medial professions. Below, you will find their stories told in their own voices through audio clips. You will discover the issues that these women have faced in sustaining lives on the island, as well as the problems that they believe future women moving to the island will handle as Block Island grows and changes. You will hear about their views on what roles women play in the Block Island society and how that has grown and developed. However, most importantly, I hope you will feel exactly how I felt during my travels there: that this is a community of love, respect, and genuine consideration for one another, and that the women will continue to support each other and find new solutions to problems, regardless of how they arise or are complicated by the effects by a wave of "gentrification."
Thank you to all of those who allowed me to speak with them, and thank you to Gallatin for supporting this research. Enjoy.

Rita Draper and The 1661 Inn

Rita Draper is the Owner and Proprietor of The 1661 Inn, one of the only year-round inns on Block Island. Hear about the history of her business and her reflections on working in this community for a number of years.
Rita Draper and The 1661 Inn - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Jessie Edwards and the Jessie Edwards Gallery

Jessie Edwards and the Jessie Edwards Gallery

Jessie Edwards has owned and operated one of the art galleries on Block Island for many years, but that wasn't where she got her start. Find out about what she did before, and why she's created art on the island for so long.
Jessie Edwards and the Jessie Edwards Gallery - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Kim Gaffett

Kim Gaffett has been involved in Block Island politics and conservation for years. She reflects on the challenges of being in a small community when trying to work together to solve problems - particularly of being a woman in the leadership role.
Kim Gaffett - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Pam Glen, Kristin J. Baumann, and the Island Free Library

Pam Glen and Kristin J. Baumann work at one of the centers of the community at the top of Dodge Street, which is home to almost exclusively female business owners. They talk about their experience in the community, as well as some of the issues that continue to trouble Block Island and threaten its stability.

Mary Lawless and Watercolors

Mary Lawless and Watercolors

Mary Lawless thought she would be opening a boutique in the west...then she came to Block Island and fell in love with the place. She talks about the community she's found there, and why finding love on the island is a little more complicated than falling for it.
Mary Lawless and Watercolors - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Rosemary Tobin and Lila Delman Real Estate

Rosemary Tobin makes a living off helping people find homes on the island, as well as holding other jobs. She talks about the challenges of being a real estate agent on such a small place and why she thinks the island is a great place for her son to grow up.
Rosemary Tobin and Lila Delman Real Estate - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Christy and Becca Zendt and The Darius Inn

Christy and Becca had always dreamed of opening a family business, and Block Island offered the best place for it. Hear about the ways they think the younger generations are making it work on the island.
Christy and Becca Zendt and The Darius Inn - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Meg Vitacco and Mutt Hutt

Meg was looking for a place to take her dog on vacation and found a new home. Listen to learn about how the transition from living in New York City went and why the business community on Block Island was greatly beneficial for Meg and her shop.
Meg Vitacco and Mutt Hutt - Rachel A.G. Gilman

Mary Donnelly and The Mary D Fund

Mary Donnelly was Block Island's first nurse, and perhaps one of their greatest guardian angels. In the conclusion of the series, Mary and her daughter, Marguerite, speak about the impact the Mary D Fund has had on the Block Island community and how it relates to the changes we've seen on the island over the course of the entire study.
Mary and Marguerite Donnelly - Rachel A.G. Gilman
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