Funerals and memorials can be good places to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. The last time I saw tradeswoman foremother Mary Garvin was more than a decade ago at a memorial for our dear friend and advocate Cindy Morano (of Wider Opportunities for Women) in Oakland. Now I’ve learned that Mary Garvin has died.
Mary was a very early tradeswoman activist. She worked as an electrician’s apprentice and as a carpenter in San Francisco before moving to New York where she organized the Women in Apprenticeship Project, which later became Nontraditional Employment for Women. Mary was involved in the U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit that established goals and timetables for women in construction in 1978.
I worked with Mary in an early attempt to form a national tradeswomen organization in the 1970s along with Susie Suafai, Cris McCullough and others. She had the energy of ten of us and seemed to never sleep. I remember Cris admonishing her not to call after 9 at night. “Tradeswomen have to get up early!”
From her obituary in the Tallahassee Democrat I learned that at 16 Mary moved from her home in Illinois to the infamous Wheeler Ranch in Sonoma County where she built her own house and lived for several years. Googling the Wheeler Ranch got me to fascinating stories about the commune and its hippie denizens.
Throughout her life Mary was committed to progressive causes. She had moved to Florida to work at protecting Florida’s caves. She is remembered by friends as “versatile, accomplished, self-reliant, generous, persistent and courageous.” I remember her as a hell of a lot of fun to work with, a committed sister in our struggle to integrate the construction trades.