Pictured here are part of the Oxide Leaching crew on Dec. 31, 1944. L-R: Reg Bilkey, Mary Rohacks, Mabel Schiavon, Bill Saitherswaite, Bobby Mason held by Carmela Demeo, Jean Stainton, Skid Marsters, Ingrid “Atty” Atkinson, Andy Adie, and Jessie Woodridge. Photo: Trail Historical Society

Pictured here are part of the Oxide Leaching crew on Dec. 31, 1944. L-R: Reg Bilkey, Mary Rohacks, Mabel Schiavon, Bill Saitherswaite, Bobby Mason held by Carmela Demeo, Jean Stainton, Skid Marsters, Ingrid “Atty” Atkinson, Andy Adie, and Jessie Woodridge. Photo: Trail Historical Society

Trail Blazers: Pillars of strength – our women

Trail Blazers is a weekly historical feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives

This week’s Trail Blazers feature is particularly timely given International Women’s Day is coming up Monday, March 8.

This image from the archives perfectly represents women’s achievements on the homefront whether it be social, cultural, economic, and all else – because it shows what we’ve always known in this city.

Trail women have always been ahead of their time and are fearless about getting done what needs to be done.

Case in point; before the Second World War, a small number of women worked at the smelter in administration, though in the early days, it was mostly performing clerical duties.

With the loss of men to the military, CM&S (now Teck Trail) hired women to fill their jobs.

At its peak, 2,000 out of 5,000 smelter workers were women.

Some were mechanics.

Others worked in labour gangs.

Some worked in the plants, testing metals, and in refining.

Of note, is that women in the smelter were paid 80 per cent of the men’s rate. They did, however, have the “possibility” of earning more with good performance.

“But, if they transferred to a new job, the pay rate was once again 80 per cent,” explains Sarah Benson-Lord, Trail Museum and Archives curator.

Replacement by women was viewed as temporary because smelter workers who enlisted were guaranteed their jobs back after the war.

In due time, what happened is that the women weren’t about to relinquish their valuable skills or wage-earning abilities once the men came home.

“Many women were thrilled with their new-found ability to earn a wage and remained in the workforce following their time in the smelter. They sought employment outside the traditional ‘female’ positions of teaching and nursing,” Benson-Lord said.

“In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, we salute Trail’s women of the war effort and those who inspired social and economic change. “

International Women’s Day is a global event celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, with the message, “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”

Read more: Trail celebrates Internation Women’s Day 2019

Read more: Trail advocates call attention to violence against women



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