Congressman will recognize two Jamestown women
On June 24, Congressman David Cicilline will hold his third annual women’s luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence. His special guest for the event will be Democratic leader and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. For the first time, three women from Rhode Island will be honored at the luncheon: two of them call Jamestown home.
Cicilline said the impetus to hold the luncheon came from knowing many great women who were either part of his administration or long-time supporters. The original idea came from U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois who held her own women’s luncheon for a number of years.
“I thought it would be a great way to bring together women who have supported me, but also to recognize the power of women,” said Cicilline, who was re-elected in November to his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. “It gives me an opportunity to speak about things that are important to women. It’s to remind people that one of the commitments I made was to go to Washington and fight on behalf of women and girls.”
Since becoming a member of Congress, Cicilline has involved himself in issues including equal pay for equal work, full reproductive health care for women, and creating clear pathways for girls in school.
“I understand the responsibilities that I have as a legislator to protect and promote issues that are important to girls and women,” Cicilline said. “The luncheon gives me an opportunity to highlight that work.”
Cicilline said he looks forward to the opportunity to recognize three successful female Rhode Islanders. According to the congressman, the women were chosen because they have distinguished themselves in their field, displayed strong leadership qualities, and were respected by their peers.
Past keynote speakers at the luncheon have included Schakowsky, who he borrowed the idea from, and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. Cicilline said he was honored to have Pelosi as the keynote speaker this year.
“She’s been a great leader of our caucus, and a great voice of encouragement for the things that I care about,” Cicilline said.
Dr. Barbara Roberts is a cardiologist who has been living in Jamestown for 15 years. She said she became a doctor because she couldn’t become a priest.
“My father worshipped priests and doctors, and I knew I didn’t have a prayer of becoming a priest,” Roberts said. “So I decided to become a doctor at a time when it was very unusual for women to go to medical school.”
Roberts attended Barnard College in New York City for her undergraduate degree before going on to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland for medical school. She was just the second female intern at Case Western’s internal medicine department. Roberts completed her residency at Yale University and her cardiology fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a Harvard University teaching hospital. She became the first female adult cardiologist in Rhode Island when she came to the state in 1977.
According to Roberts, she came to the Ocean State for the “good sailing.” After her fellowship, she had taken a full-time academic job at the Penn State medical school in Hershey, Penn. Soon she decided that while she wanted to be in an academic setting, she didn’t want full-time recognition in that area.
She went into private practice at Miriam Hospital in Providence in 1977, and since 2002 has been working as director of the women’s cardiac center there.
When Roberts and her husband Joseph Avarista came to Jamestown in 1998, they were really looking for a summer home where they could retire. However, the couple fell in love with the island and after two years sold their house in Providence and moved to town full time.
Roberts learned that she was going to be honored at the luncheon when she received an email from Cicilline. She has known the congressman since 1980.
“I was blown away,” she said. “I was very honored to be included in such august company.”
The second Jamestown-based honoree is Alex and Ani creator and designer Carolyn Rafaelian. Alex and Ani was launched in 2004 and named after Rafaelian’s first two daughters. The company is based in Cranston and has 30 retail locations throughout the United States.
Rafaelian didn’t return multiple calls from the Press for her reaction on being honored.
The third honoree is actress Viola Davis. Davis grew up in Central Falls and attended Rhode Island College. Davis has won two Tony Awards and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her role in the 2011 film “The Help.” Time Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012.
Proceeds from the luncheon go to Cicilline’s campaign fund. Tickets are available by calling Jeff Larivee at 202-821-5203.