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Hannah Sachs - Waterbury, Connecticut

Submitted by Yvette Ghannam - New Britain, Connecticut

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She was a great mentor and strong moral support for me and my professional career.

The woman that inspired me locally in Connecticut was a humble lady named Miss Hannah Sachs. She was an orthodox Jewish women that was born in 1902 in Waterbury, Connecticut. She graduated in the 1920s from a womens college in New London, CT with a degree in applied chemistry-biology. She worked as a bacteriologist for Henry Southern Laboratories since 1923 until the late 1990s. She never learned how to drive a car, but instead she committed to her job every day two hours to go and two hours to come home.

Some of the important duties that Miss Sachs used to do were bacteriological testing of drinking and waste water. She used to do also the microscopic examination of water from reservoirs for algae testing. She was well respectedby the professional community in Hartford Country.

I met her when I was hired in 1988 at the same place, Henry Southern laboratories. Although I was doing a professional job as a bacteriologist too, my English skills were limited. Miss Sachs was very patient to speak with me, and to train me to do all the test she used to do. She never stoped telling me about the importance of finish my bachelor degree which was incomplete. She urged me all the time to finish my college education. Since I used to have problem with the English language, one of her best advice to me was to read the newspaper every day and to get to know the elected officials in my city. These two pieces of advice were very powerful for me, because I soon started to be a volunteer in my community with the police, politicians, and many other organizations.  Although, I grew up in poverty, Miss Sachs taught me power of using public speaking and to raise my voice regarding my concerns.

Another great gesture from Miss Sachs was to accept at work and help my present husband Khalil Ghannam. She did not care about religious barriers between Khalil who is a Muslim, and myself that I am a Christian woman. Hannah Sachs, an orthodox women  is a good  example of a woman with compassion to make this world a better place to live! Thanks to her courage to me, I do have now two master degrees, and I am working now on my PhD.

It is nice to see people with different background when they help others to improve their education and quality of life. I will always remember Hannah Sachs as a great mentor for me as a Hispanic women that came from poverty.

With sincerity,


This story was submitted as part of Oxam America's International Women's Day initiative to honor women working to right the wrongs of poverty and hunger. Honorees are selected independently by Oxfam supporters. Selection does not imply endorsement or other support from Oxfam America.

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