Greenfield, MA Election Day. June 8, 2010

Dear Iris,

This essay isn’t being written to settle scores. It’s about setting the record straight. And also feminism.

And also, so this never has to happen to another woman.

This is a picture of me and you, from our town’s elections. You ran for City Council as a Democrat, and won. I really liked you and your husband and your daughter. I thought you were both supercool. You had one birthday where you asked everyone to make music mixes. You had another birthday party where you rented out a roller skating rink.

And then over time, you distanced yourself. You even left Go Greenfield, the Facebook page we had started together to promote positive news about our town. I think I know why.

Another woman worked for me briefly and then resigned from my company. I didn’t actually fire her. I just refused to give her some vacation time that she had asked for, and then she decided to stop showing up at work. She had been on the job for less than two months. After we parted ways, this former employee (not you) did everything she could to sabotage my company and wreck my personal life.

She made all of our friends choose between us. If they invited me to a party, she wouldn’t come. When I tried to talk to our mutual friends to make peace she blocked me. She had signed a nondisclosure agreement (something she wanted — I didn’t ask for one). I think the gag order made things worse. What happened, as far as I can tell, was that this woman didn’t say anything bad about me directly, but passively encouraged rumors to fly. Particularly in local Democratic Party circles. (She was also a City Council member.) Another influential female Democrat in that town, someone I had known since college, de-friended me without explanation.

What were people saying? I have no idea. I feared there were lies floating around: either that I was a prostitute or that I had broken up somebody’s marriage. All I can say is that I will swear on the Holy Bible that neither of those things are true. Same for porn, by the way. Wouldn’t go near that industry if my life depended on it.

I moved to this town because my husband left me for another woman. I know how it feels to lose everything. I would never want to be the other woman, or to be with a man who would cheat on his spouse. I know how people in small towns talk, because I heard the talk about everyone else. There I was, walking down Main Street to my office all summer long, wearing a sundress or a tank top (my house didn’t have central air conditioning). I think that was all it took.

It still surprised me when a Boston concertgoer told me he had met a woman from Greenfield, who claimed to have heard of me and told him that my reputation was “not good.” Maybe he was just making up that story. I don’t know. But maybe he wasn’t. My old company kept our existing clients, but we had sort of a donut hole when it came to new business.

We got more clients from suburbs and cities nearby, but local word-of-mouth dried up. There could have been other factors in play. Greenfield was in the midst of an opioid epidemic, so that could have been part of the problem too. It was never that bad. Nobody ever spat at me in the street as I passed by. I still had my friends. I still had the same web development company, which by the way is now in its tenth year of business.

Before Coronavirus we were one of the most visible and well-known independent businesses in town, after the natural foods co-op and the periodontist. But at the end of the day, there wasn’t enough money to pay me and pay the lead developer also. He brought in the majority of the billable hours, so I sold the company to him and moved to the West Coast, expecting to start over. Greenfield was for me my perfect place. I loved that you could find streets where chickens roamed free, great food, and amazing hiking trails. I knew that people were committed to making our schools and our library better. It may not have been as fashionable as some of the other towns but I was proud to call it home. I miss my town. I miss the house I bought. I wanted so much to give back. I expected to stay and grow old there.

This is the house I bought in 2008. I remember making an offer on it the same day I went to my Williams College 10-year reunion. It seemed like, in spite of my divorce, everything was to be ok.

This is the house I bought in 2008. I remember making an offer on it the same day I went to my Williams College 10-year reunion. It seemed like, in spite of my divorce, everything was to be ok.

Iris, you were elected to public office in Greenfield. You were respected and liked by pretty much everyone. I found out last summer that you blocked me online. I have no idea why.

During all the time that I was running my business in that small town in Massachusetts, I tried to look the other way. But as far as I can tell, the whispering campaign continued. Until I eventually did have to leave town. I realized then that being polite and nice doesn’t always work. If someone is a threat, particularly if they have treated you badly, they are going to keep looking for ways to sabotage you and put you down.

There is no neutral or safe territory. It is easy to speak out against schoolyard bullies. It is harder to know what to do when you are a single woman in your late thirties, trying to run a business and give back to your community, while there is a whispering campaign against you.

Iris, I don’t blame you at all, but I am sorry we are no longer friends. The conflict between us happened because of other people’s agendas. I am chalking what happened up to envy and jealousy. I survived. But I miss Massachusetts.

Tess Gadwa

Program Director
Giving Map

Founder and Product Architect LLC