OTTERS Thank President Carter

For the past several years I’ve been meeting on zoom with a group of old women trades workers and organizers as we discuss and record our collective history. We call ourselves the OTTERS (Old Tradeswomen Talking Eating and Remembering Shit). Since the 1970s we have fought to open jobs for women and minorities that had been closed to us, like construction work. Affirmative action was our issue and for a short time during Jimmy Carter’s administration, we had support from the federal government. Our fortunes reversed after the election of Reagan, whose labor policies were crafted to push women out of the workforce and back into the kitchen. Our vision of employment equity became much harder to realize, but we didn’t stop. We’ve created training programs and tradeswomen organizations that have opened opportunities for women all over the U.S. We wanted to thank President Carter for his part in the success of our movement, so we wrote him a letter.

The Honorable Jimmy Carter
The Carter Center
453 Freedom Parkway NE
Atlanta, GA 30307

Dear President Carter,

We are writing to thank you for supporting Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Laws while you were in the White House and beyond. More importantly, we want to thank you for enforcing those laws. It made a difference for us and so many other women who were able to enter the construction trades because of your commitment. 

We are a group of older tradeswomen from around the country. We have come together to share stories, remember old times, and to document our history. 

We are the OTTERS. Old Tradeswomen Talking, Eating and Remembering Sh#*. 

During several of our meetings we were trying to figure out when and what was the ‘watershed’ moment when we began working together. We had been working in our respective states but then something happened. You may wonder what it was that brought us together and allowed us to begin meeting and working on a national level to reach out to women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) for training in trade and technical jobs.

We agreed it was, in large part, due to you and your administration’s commitment to equality. Enforcing the laws and ensuring those enforcement agencies were properly funded and staffed.

Many of our OTTERS members started Tradeswomen organizations that provide pre-apprenticeship training for women and find partnering with Habitat for Humanity a wonderful experience for our students. Many of us are still engaged in advocacy and still working toward a more diverse workforce. You continue to be an inspiration to all of us. Thank you. 

Yours in Equity, 

Lisa Diehl, West Virginia

United Brotherhood of Carpenters 7 years

Co-Chair 2nd National Tradeswomen Conference

Non-Traditional Advocacy 30 years

Founder, West Virginia Women Work

Dr. Lynn Shaw, California 

Miner/Steelworker/Longshoreworker/Electrician: 25 years 

Founder of WINTER, Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles Los Angeles

Ronnie Sandler, New Hampshire

First woman in any of the building trades in Michigan 1976 

Carpenter and contractor for 12 years

First woman to work highway construction in the state of New Hampshire

Designed and ran trades training programs for women Michigan, Vermont, and New Hampshire

On site compliance officer for Maine Department of Transportation 3 major bridge projects

Nettie Dokes, Washington

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Line worker 30+ years

First African American woman Line worker (high voltage electrician) in US 

Seattle Women in Trades Executive Board 25+ years

Pre-apprenticeship instructor 15 years

President and CEO of Workforce Alchemist-a consulting firm for Women in Construction 5 years

Connie Ashbrook, Oregon

Elevator Constructor 17 years

Founder and Executive Director (retired) Oregon Tradeswomen Network

Dale McCormick, Maine

First woman Journeyman in US Carpenters Union, 51 years

Founder and Executive Director of Women Unlimited Maine

Northeast Women in Transportation

Elly Spicer, New York

United Brotherhood of Carpenters New York City, 35 years

Apprenticeship Training Director 3 years

Kathy Augustine, Ohio

Computer Systems Electronics Technician 15 years

Executive Director (retired) Hard Hatted Women, Cleveland 16 years

Kipp Dawson, Pennsylvania

Coal Miner 13 years

Public School teacher 23 years

Coal Miner and Activist in United Mineworkers of America 13 years

Coal Employment Project- Coal Mining Women Support Team since 1979

Betty Jean Hall, Florida

Executive Director & General Counsel

Coal Employment Project- Coal Mining Women Support Team 1977-1988

Lauren Sugerman, Illinois

Elevator Constructor 6 years

Founding Executive Director of Chicago Women in Trades 23 years

Founder and Director of the National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment 

Marge Wood, Wisconsin

Plumber 12 years

United Association UA union member 35 years, Madison

Apprenticeship Consultant, WI Technical College System 24 years

Molly Martin, California

Electrician 14 years

Electrical Inspector 10 years

Founder of Tradeswomen Inc., San Francisco

Author: Molly Martin

I'm a long-time tradeswoman activist, retired electrician and electrical inspector. I live in Santa Rosa, CA. molly-martin.com. I also share a travel blog with my wife Holly: travelswithmoho.wordpress.com.

9 thoughts on “OTTERS Thank President Carter”

  1. Hi Molly,

    Thanks for sharing this. I recognized Kipp Dawson’s name. We both went to Berkeley High School and played clarinet together in band.

    Take care,

    Donna Watson

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent…thanks for sending this along.

    — Marilyn Hawkins Hawkins & Company PR Public Relations & Marketing Communications 607 Van Sant Street Ashland, Oregon 97520 (541) 708-6697 landline (206) 601-8823 mobile mhawkins@prhawk.com

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. so glad you shared this wonderful story with us. I always felt that Jimmy Carter was one of our better presidents, no matter what others said and still say about him. he has more humanity than so many other of our so-called leaders. he tried to tell us the truth about t he environment that was coming and not many of us wanted to hear it. Thanx again Molly, storyteller par excellence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sheila! I did love Carter. He’s a religious guy and you know how much I hate organized religion, but his was the kind of religion that associated with and cared for the poor and disenfranchised. He was a peacemaker and we could sure use that now.

      Like

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