RBC Women in Trades Blog

The Stories We Tell

  Posted by on: April 25, 2014


A patent drawing for an early table (circular) saw.



Thanks to everyone who attended our first lunch and meet-up. It was great to have the chance to speak with you, hear your stories, and discuss ideas for empowering women in the trades. If you missed this event, there will another meet-up announced soon, and I hope to see even more of our talented tradeswomen and students there.




Here, in her own words, is the inspiring story of one of our female trades students:

“As a young teen, in the mid ’70s, I asked my father “If, even though, I wasn’t a boy, I was the oldest and if I worked on the family farm, could I become a partner with him or be considered to inherit it”. My father was surprised by my inquiry however his quick response and chosen words, shocked me.  He responded by telling me, “Girls don’t inherit; they get married and have babies”. Some 33 years later, in 2009, as my father was in his final days of his battle with cancer.  I was sitting by his bed, holding his hand and telling of a message that was left on my phone the previous day, regarding a possibility that I might have qualified for some funding to help me attend TRU in the professional trades training of my choice, Heavy Duty Mechanics. I had started this process after being laid off from my job in December ’08, due to the recession.  But the timing, I was dealing with the break-up of a relationship, employment insurance running out, increasing debt, the emotional support and guidance to my daughter (then 16) who was assaulted and the legalities of the assault, keeping my 6 yr old daughter safe and the pending loss of my father.  I wasn’t sure if I could take one more thing on, at this point.  My father squeezed my hand and hoarsely whispered, “Do it”.  These were the last words that my father was ever able to speak to me; he died just a few days later, on Father’s Day.  I believe that the 33 years of changes that had taken place in society and my accomplishments in my adult life, pursuing my choice and becoming a cattle rancher on my own without his assistance.   My father was not only able to respect and except me as an equal in a normally male oriented field but could now encourage me to reach for another in a trade.

So, for those of you who have done the math, you now realize just how mature of an adult student, I was about to become.  Not only was I taking a trade that I was very interested in (and handy for a rancher), job security (for off -ranch income) but also leading by example for my children.  No matter the trade/job or age, they were capable of achieving their goals.  Through  the sacrifices’ we  made as a family and their help on ranch, I am now completing my fourth year apprentice schooling at TRU and will be writing my Inter-provincial exam in a few weeks,  soon to move from the ranks of an apprentice to Red Seal Journeyman H.D. Mechanic  – job security and an excellent wage.   I can now move from survival mode and just scraping to get by, to providing for now and the future of my family.  The light at the end of the tunnel, that for so many years was attached to a freight train threatening to run me over, is now a bright future. I owe a big ‘thank you’ to both my daughters for their support.”  Susanne Langan

For some, it is not always easy to accept the social and economic changes that have opened up new opportunities for women, but how inspiring to hear about one individual’s willingness to acknowledge a change of heart.

Special Congratulations to Pamela Eyles and Rayella Parr who received their Class 1 Driver Certificates from Ray Trenholm, President of Columbia Transport Training. Both women were trained through a partnership between TRU and Columbia. Rayella is already on her way to Kitimat to start a new job! Way to go!

If you have a story you’d like to share about how you came to be interested in the trades, obstacles you’ve faced, or individuals who inspired or encouraged you, please send me an email. pfry@tru.ca



“Tabitha Babbitt lived in a Shaker community in Massachusetts and worked as a weaver, but in 1810, she came up with a way to lighten the load of her brethren. She observed men cutting wood with a pit saw, which is a two-handled saw that requires two men to pull it back and forth. Though the saw is pulled both ways, it only cuts wood when it’s pulled forward; the return stroke is useless. To Babbitt, that was wasted energy, so she created a prototype of the circular saw that would go on to be used in saw mills. She attached a circular blade to her spinning wheel so that every movement of the saw produced results. Because of Shaker precepts, Babbitt didn’t apply for a patent for the circular saw she created.”

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