June, 2011

The Fighting Spirit of Bantam Boxing’s Tammie Lefebvre

Boxing and women. For many, the award-winning performance of former Vermonter Melissa Leo in The Fighter comes first to mind, with her vivid portrayal of a boxer’s mother who sought to manage her son’s career, while her seven daughters looked on from the sidelines. And though based on the true story of our neighbors in Lowell, Massachusetts, it is, after all, a Hollywood drama.

But Vermont has its own remarkable boxer story unfolding of a gritty woman who has come out fighting, determined to overcome life’s challenges, among them domestic violence – while her five daughters, age 8-13, box on.

“I never thought I’d be running a boxing gym,” confesses 43-year old Tammie Lefebvre of Bantam Boxing. Nor, it seems, do most people who spot the diminutive 5’2” mother of five at boxing matches expect that she is there as manager of the male competitor sparring in the ring at a Golden Gloves tournament, for example. “When people think of boxing, they think of Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali – not little blond Tammie!” she laughs. Yet this is where her career path has currently led the Rutland native, who now lives in Chittenden County. It’s late March when we first meet, and Lefebvre is perched on a stool amidst the chaos that comes during a move in progress. Rarely taking a pause, she relates the story of how she’s come ringside.

Lefebvre recalls growing up in Rutland at a time when young girls were dissuaded from watching boxing on television, let alone actually participating in the sport. Raised primarily by her grandparents, she was to be a “little lady.” She remembers always being “the chubby little girl who got picked on” at school – and, she says, got really tired of it. Once in high school, a friend of hers had begun training with Tommy Garrow, a well-known boxer in the area – and so young Tammie asked her friend to show her some of the things he was learning from Garrow. “While he was training with Mr. Garrow he was showing me how to defend myself,” she says. “And the chubby little girl was actually transformed into the girl who actually went on to do a little bit of modeling and then on to college, and was not the chubby little girl anymore.


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Tammie Lefebvre


Bad Move? Relocating the Women’s Prison – The Impact on Vermont’s Incarcerated Women, and State Taxpayers


Vermont’s sole women’s prison facility is moving – again. A decade ago, women inmates were housed at the Dale Women’s State Prison in the former state mental-health facility in Waterbury, and in overflow housing at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. In 2003, they were moved to the homey Windsor Women’s Prison. In 2008, they were transferred to the capacious, if desolate, Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton. This summer, they’re headed back to the Chittenden facility.

The upside is that the move provides the Shumlin administration an opportunity to advance its new vision of a fundamentally different corrections system that purportedly does not spend taxpayer dollars to unnecessarily warehouse non-violent offenders.

The downside is that Chittenden doesn’t have enough beds to house the number of presently incarcerated women – currently about 135. And it has much less room for programs and vocational training than Northwest.

Will the move save money? Will it help or hurt the inmates’ chances of returning to society as productive, employable citizens? On both questions, the jury is still out.


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Dollars, Dollars, Everywhere – And Not a Cent to Spare


We think about dollars every day. We weigh prices in dollars, pay for goods and services with them, and try to earn as many as we can. Without them, we couldn’t pay taxes, buy food, pick up prescriptions, or shop for new clothes.

Yet if women, who are considered the lynchpin of this consumer-based economy – you and I – fail to look more closely at what money is and how dollars get created as a unit of exchange, we might find our purses one day filled with worthless paper – may it not come true, please.

Do I sound worried? I am, but only when I think of the economy as it is now: an alpha-male-dominated house of cards on Wall Street continuing with business as usual. No complex society can survive without a shared trust in its currency. As I explain what is happening to the dollar in the larger picture, I hope you’ll be scared a little, too, but also inspired, as I have been, to become part of the movement to redefine the rules of today’s economic game, including our monetary policy. If you’re like me, you never dreamed you’d take an interest in something so seemingly far removed from life. But then it turns out monetary policy affects absolutely everything.


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Money Sign