Alice Wolf

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Alice Wolf
Alice Wolf.jpg
Former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from the 25th Middlesex District
In office
Preceded by Charles Flaherty
Succeeded by Marjorie Decker
Personal details
Born (1933-12-24) December 24, 1933 (age 83)
Vienna, Austria
Political party Democratic
Children 2
Residence Cambridge, Massachusetts
Alma mater Simmons College
Occupation Legislator

Alice K. Wolf (born Alice Koerner, December 24, 1933) is an American politician. She served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1996 to 2013, representing the 25th Middlesex District. On March 22, 2012, Wolf announced that she would not seek re-election. Her term ended in January 2013.

She previously served on the Cambridge, Massachusetts School Committee and Cambridge City Council Cambridge City Council, Massachusetts#Government, as the Mayor of Cambridge, as the mayor from 1990 to 1991.[1]

Early Years[edit]

Wolf was born to a Jewish family in 1933 in Vienna, Austria. Her parents, Frederick (Fritz) and Renee Koerner, fled Nazi persecution in 1938, bringing the family to Brighton, Massachusetts.

The first school that Wolf attended was the Baldwin Early Learning Center,[2] which is still running in Brighton, Massachusetts.

She attended high school at Boston Girl’s Latin School, now Boston Latin Academy. She graduated from Simmons College (Massachusetts)[3] in 1955 with a degree in Experimental Psychology. In the same year she and her husband, Robert Wolf were married. The Wolfs settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts where they raised a family. She later earned a master's degree in public administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Early career[edit]

Alice Wolf’s career started at M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory where she conducted perceptual research by programming the Memory Test Computer[4] to display dot patterns to human subjects. Later, she co-authored a paper “Baseball: An Automated Question Answerer”[5] which described an early attempt at natural language database queries. The paper was translated into Chinese and Russian. After Lincoln Laboratory, Wolf worked at Bolt Beranek and Newman as well as Computer Corporation of America, which was later acquired by Rocket Software.[6]

Alice Wolf’s path to civic engagement and elective office began with participation in the Parent-Teacher’s Association of the Peabody School in Cambridge, where her sons were students. Deep involvement as a parent with school affairs ultimately led to her election in 1974 as a member of the Cambridge School Committee, where she served from January 1974 through January 1982.

Initial Public Service Career[edit]

Alice Wolf began her long career in public service when she was elected in 1974 as a member of the Cambridge School Committee, where she served from January 1974 through January 1982. While on the School Committee, she championed community involvement in decision-making (such as the hiring of school principals), was lauded for crafting the first plan for racial desegregation of the city’s schools, and provided leadership in the siting of the city’s high school, the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

In 1981, near the end of her fourth term on the School Committee, she felt that her efforts to bring about social equality would be better spent on the Cambridge City Council. She ran for the Council in 1981, but narrowly missed a win in a crowded field of 25 candidates.[7]

In 1983, she again ran for election to the Cambridge City Council and was successful. She joined the Council in January 1984.[8]

On the Cambridge City Council[edit]

Wolf’s accomplishments on the Cambridge City Council included the establishment and passage of a number of key laws. In 1984, she sponsored the,[9] that protects Cambridge residents on the basis of sexual orientation, prohibiting discrimination. Wolf also led the City initiative to create a domestic partners ordinance,and establish the[10] to enforce the ordinance.

Wolf was the sponsor of the first Mayor's Gay Pride Breakfast, which has become an annual Cambridge event. At a subsequent Gay Pride Breakfast, she was named an "honorary lesbian."

In the 1980s, in conjunction with the Cambridge Peace Commission, she created a “peace curriculum,” a program of peace education for the public schools, K-12, to assist teachers in assuring kids of all ages could develop a constructive approach to resolving differences and disputes. Wolf led marches and did research to support "economic conversion," trying to convince local companies to convert military-focused enterprises into peace-oriented activities. She developed Sister City relationships, a model for international cooperation at the grassroots level, with San José Las Flores, Chalatenango, El Salvador and Yerevan, Armenia. Wolf led the effort to make Cambridge a Sanctuary City, where persecuted people fleeing tyranny and death in their countries of origin could come when they were not given political asylum in the U.S.. With the Cambridge Peace Commission and others, Wolf worked to hold a yearly Cambridge Holocaust Commemoration, support Armenia (through the Cambridge-Yerevan sister city relationship) after the 1988 earthquake, continue nurturing the connection with the residents of San Jose Las Flores, El Salvador, and to bring together Cambridge people of diverse backgrounds to support our Muslim neighbors after 9/11.

Wolf led in the creation of the Cambridge Kids Council, which is dedicated to developing policy recommendations and programs aimed at improving the quality of life for children, youth and families in Cambridge.

The Cambridge City Council is elected by Proportional Representation using the Single Transferable Vote system. After inauguration, the Mayor is selected by the elected members of the city council.


Alice Wolf served as the mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts from January 1990 to January 1992. She was elected five times to the Council, serving from 1984 through 1994.

Scheme Z

Alice Wolf led Cambridge in their opposition to Scheme Z, the widely criticized proposed interchange for the then-planned Big Dig highway project. Scheme Z would have added additional miles of loop ramps to the interchange. Wolf successfully worked to get Cambridge to file a lawsuit in order to stop this aspect of the plan from going forward.

As a State Representative[edit]

In the fall of 1996, Wolf successfully ran for a seat on the Massachusetts House of Representatives, defeating Anthony Galluccio in the Democratic Primary by 89 votes. She was reelected in subsequent terms and served in the Massachusetts legislature for 16 years.

As a legislator, Representative Alice Wolf served as the House Chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs and on the Women’s Legislative Caucus. She has been recognized for her advocacy through numerous honors and awards including the Executive Office of Health and Human Services Department of Mental Health 2010 Certificate of Appreciation; the 2009 School-Based Health Center Legislative Champion Award; the 2007 NOW Legislator of the Year; the 2007 Byron Rushing Freedom of Religion Award from the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry; the 2006 Massachusetts Family Planning Association Leadership Award; the 2005 Champions of Children Award from Massachusetts Advocates for Children; and the 2005 Early Education Leadership Award from the Massachusetts Association of Community Partnerships for Children.

Alice Wolf worked on many progressive issues and on countless bills. Her many constituents saw Rep. Wolf as their champion on a range of issues, and she was regarded as one of the most progressive legislators in the State House. During her tenure, she worked to promote gender equality, GLBT rights, marriage equality, minority and immigrant rights, environmental causes, education, health care, reproductive rights, affordable housing, education and senior issues. She served as the House Chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs and of the Women’s Legislative Caucus. Wolf’s perseverance and hard work on behalf of those she represented was widely recognized. When faced with barriers to progressive legislation, she identified allies, worked within coalitions, and created strategies to move forward. She was willing to work tirelessly to move the mountains of legislative bureaucracy on issues she cares about.

Alice Wolf worked closely with activists and other leaders in their efforts to ensure that the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, was not the subject of a public referendum. As a House whip, she persuaded legislators to vote against bringing the matter before a legislative constitutional convention, championing the position that human rights should not be determined by popular vote.

Bottle Bill

Wolf’s legislative legacy includes her work to update the state’s bottle bill See Container deposit legislation in the United States. Under her leadership, the Bottle Bill Update became the most talked-about environmental bill of recent years. The Bottle Bill Update passed the Senate in 2012, but was not passed by the House. As of September 13, 2013, efforts were underway to update the Massachusetts Bottle Bill through a statewide ballot initiative.


Elected Office[edit]

Other Public Office[edit]

  • Massachusetts Municipal Association and Governor's Local Advisory Council, 1988-1993
  • Chair/Vice-Chair/Board Representative, Cities and Education Task Force, 1989-1992
  • Human Development Steering Committee, 1985-1989

Other Professional Careers

  • Consultant, Tufts University Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy, 1994-1996
  • Lecturer, Harvard Medical School, 1994-1996
  • Personnel Director, Computer Corporation of America, 1968-1976


  • Member/Co-Chair, Family Center Committee, Cambridge Kid's Council, 1994-1996
  • Member, Low Income Working Circle, 1994-1996
  • Member, Radcliffe College Public Policy Institute, 1994-1996
  • Member, Women's and Children's Health Clerkship, 1994-1996
  • Fellow, Harvard University Institute of Politics, 1994
  • Member, Women in Municipal Government, 1989-1994
  • Member, Massachusetts Municipal Association, 1985-1994
  • Board of Directors, National League of Cities, 1985-1994
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Vellucci
Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Kenneth Reeves
Massachusetts House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles Flaherty
Massachusetts State Representative for the 25th Middlesex District
Succeeded by
Marjorie Decker