I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Lenora (Lee) Whildin at her home in Randolph. Lee was the first woman elected to the Randolph Town Council in 1974 and in 1977 she became the first woman to serve as Mayor of Randolph. It was an interesting conversation to learn about Lee’s experiences.
Before moving to Randolph in 1966, Lee was trained as a nurse at Boston City Hospital through the emergency Cadet Nurse Corps Program that was established during World War II as an accelerated training program to provide a supply of nurses for the home front so that a larger number of experienced nurses could be sent overseas. Later, Lee went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minor in Public Health. She also earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University in maternity nursing in 1971.
She and her husband Bill, an engineer with Allied Signal, settled in Randolph and raised 3 children, Susan, Robert and Walter. Lee worked at All Souls’ Hospital in Morristown where she taught nursing students. After moving to Randolph, Lee became very active in the League of Women Voters and helped to organize candidates’ nights and debates for those seeking elected office for either the Randolph Board of Education or the Randolph Town Council.
In the early 70’s, she noted that most men travelled out of town for business, while women spent most of their time in Randolph. Lee felt that women might have a better view of what was needed to govern the town and she wanted to see more women involved in politics and government. In 1974, she decided to run for the Randolph Town Council because she thought she wanted to “open it to women.”
At a time when there were no women governors and less than 3% of Congress was made up of women, Lee does not remember any negativity about her as a female candidate in Randolph. She said she didn’t feel any prejudice when she was a candidate or when she served on the Council or as Mayor. Lee does remember feeling extra pressure to do a good job, though, because she “didn’t want to ruin it for future women.” She felt as the first woman to serve as Mayor of Randolph she had to “do it right or it would be difficult for other women in the future.”
At 90 years of age today, Lee is still active in the Randolph community and can frequently be seen at local events. She is still busy distributing voter registration applications to new residents.
I’m proud to be the ninth woman to serve as Mayor of Randolph continuing a tradition that began with Lee Whildin.
Women who have served as Mayor of Randolph:
Lenora Whildin 1977
Elizabeth Jaeger 1980, 1991
Kayla Bergeron 1989
Joyce Bator 1996
Myma Andersen 1998
Ann Huber 2001
Trina Mitsch 2010, 2011
Joanne Veech 2015
Christine Carey 2017