Working it Out

Patty Osborne

In the 1960s women did not imagine themselves working in sawmills, renovating houses or building schools and high rises, although we were getting an inkling that we could blaze new trails, if only we could figure out where they led. According to her memoir, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World (Caitlin Press), Kate Braid started out by getting a BA with a Secretarial Certificate, and then went on to overcome fear, inexperience and ignorance (both hers and others’) to find out that she loves to carry heavy lumber, construct walls that are straight and true, and push around large quantities of concrete, and she did this not by summoning all her courage but by listening to a tiny voice inside of her that would tell her she could do it even as every other part of her mind and body was saying the opposite. This book is not only about learning to be a carpenter—it’s also about dancing, drinking, having sex, falling in love, and growing into a body that becomes stronger and more capable every day. For women of a certain age, Braid’s story will bring back our own struggles to find a place in a man’s world, and men of the same age will be reminded what it was like to work in a mill or on a building site back in the day. Younger readers will come away with an understanding of how we were then, and Braid’s honest and open writing will have every reader laughing, crying, cringing and cheering right along with her.

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