Girls Are Coming
In 1974, lured by good wages, a 22-year-old African American college student from suburban Minneapolis started work as a pipefitter trainee for Minnegasco, a Minnesota natural-gas utility. Peggie Samples was one of the first four women hired by the company into non-secretarial jobs after the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. On the job, she and her beautiful blond friend Sonny met men who were hostile, men who were helpful, and men who were simply flummoxed to find "girls" in their midst. "S'long as a guy does his job," one told her, "it don't matter ta me if he's a gal."
This memoir is the sometimes hilarious story of how they learned to work together--and what they all learned about stereotypes.
- By: Peggie Carlson
- Format: 208 pp., 5-1/4 x 8
- Publisher: MNHS Press
- Product ##: 978-0873513760
PEGGIE CARLSON is a free-lance writer living in Minneapolis and is the author of The Canning Season.
An excerpt from The Girls are Coming:
"Go get me dat t'ing."
"Dat t'ing. You know. Dat t'ing dat goes like dis."
I stared at Elmo. He waved five greasy fingers in the air. They looked like tree roots. I had no idea what he wanted.
We were bent over a maze of pipes in the boiler room of the Linden Building, a mile west of downtown Minneapolis. Elmo was the foreman, and I was his gofer. He was the pipefitter, I the apprentice. I had been an apprentice for fifteen minutes and was already doubting that I would ever be a pipefitter.
"Could you give me a clue?" I asked, wondering how he expected me to know what a t'ing was. I was female, black, and unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Scandinavian workingman's dialect.
* * * * *
Minnegasco was blue.
The walls were blue. The floors were blue. The uniforms were blue. The entire vehicle fleet was blue. Where there were curtains, even they were blue. In the interests of conformity, and of my private campaign to look just like everyone else, I bought several blue work shirts.
The Buildings and Grounds Department was responsible for the maintenance and care of Minnegasco properties. Those of us who worked there had very little contact with the public, so we were not obliged to spruce up in fancy uniforms to impress people. Nevertheless, there was an unofficial dress code in B&G. It, too, was blue.
So on that day, early in the summer of 1974, when Sonny Kohn strolled into the shop wearing a skimpy electric-yellow halter top, every mouth fell open, including mine. Sonny was very tall and very blond, and gorgeous. Without doubt, she was not familiar with the unofficial dress code. She wasn't even wearing a bra, not that there was an official or unofficial code covering bras, so far.