Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s women were just beginning to try to convince contractors that there was a place for them in the construction industry. I do not consider myself to be a male chauvinist, and I did not at that time either, so I tried to go along with them.
My first experience, along those lines, was the application of a great big buxom gal who was built like the proverbial out building. She had applied to us for a job as a pipe line welder. We could visualize all kinds of problems with a gal like that working on a crew made up of eight or ten pipe liners. However, we felt sure that when she saw what the work was like and the conditions under which the work had to be performed, she would decide that pipe line welding was, definitely, man’s work.
This all happened before the days of OSHA and their requirement that Porta-Johns be provided at all construction sites. So we tried to point out, to her, that the men sometimes urinated in the trench where the pipe was being laid. She assured me that such things would be no problem, because she could “piss in the ditch” also.
After we had exhausted all of our logical excuses, with no success, we hired her, thinking that she probably would not be able to pass the Utility Company’s test anyway. That was wishful thinking also, because she passed all of their tests with flying colors. The result was that we had the only woman pipe line welder in Michigan, and as far as I know, in the whole world. We not only had a women welder, we had a whole lot of other problems which would not, under normal circumstances, be considered a part of the laying of a natural gas pipe line. The most serious of those problems didn’t confine themselves to the usual eight hour work day either.
After work the problems followed the crew; the foremen, the welders, the equipment operators, the laborers and even some of the customer’s inspectors, into the Beer Taverns. Then the problems followed some of the male employees all the way to their homes, and that is where the real upheaval took place. It didn’t take long for the wives, of the crew members, to find out that there was a woman working with, and drinking with, their husbands.
The problem finally expanded to the point that men were quitting due to pressure from the home front. We didn’t dare to fire the welder, for fear of repercussions from the Women’s Movement and we couldn’t continue with the upheaval. Our salvation was that one of the other welders had a friend in a commercial welding shop and was able to convince “Big Mama” that she would like an inside job much better than working in a ditch with a bunch of crummy pipe liners, so she applied for, and got the job.
I don’t suppose that the outstanding recommendation from the Clifton Engineering Company had much impression on the Welding Shop operator, but I did the best that I knew how.