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Maine Memory Network

Women in a Man's World

This slideshow contains 13 items
1
Women outside of Eastern Manufacturing, Brewer, ca. 1920

Women outside of Eastern Manufacturing, Brewer, ca. 1920

Item 75138 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

Women never made up anywhere close to a majority of the workers at Eastern but plenty of women found work with the company throughout its history.

These seventeen women were employed with Eastern during the 1920s and show that women were able to find work in the mills in Maine.


2
Women sorting rags, Brewer, ca. 1920

Women sorting rags, Brewer, ca. 1920

Item 70280 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

In 1905 Fred Ayer added a cotton rag mill and the company began making fine, cotton-based paper. Eastern used discarded rags to make a cloth-based paper and women were responsible for sorting the rags.

These women worked under the supervision of a man who is shown in the background of this photo.


3
Eastern Paper Finish Department workers, Brewer, 1942

Eastern Paper Finish Department workers, Brewer, 1942

Item 70278 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

Women worked at the end of production in the finishing department. In this department large rolls of paper were cut into sheets of various sizes and then packaged to meet the needs of the customers.

Note that these women worked closely with, and often under the supervision of, men.


4
Office workers at Eastern, Brewer, ca. 1938

Office workers at Eastern, Brewer, ca. 1938

Item 75135 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

More commonly women found work in the many offices of Eastern. While these women in the photograph worked for the company during the 1930s, Lois Andrews began to work for the company in 1956 as a secretary.

She was responsible for typing purchase orders, completing invoices, and filing papers.

Lois left the company for a brief period to begin a family but when she returned she went to work in the stores department, a separate building that housed spare parts for machines as well as office supplies, where she was responsible for typing cards for the various items in the department.

She also took on a job in Human Resources before finally starting work in the lab testing pulp.


5
A woman in the lab, Brewer, ca. 2006

A woman in the lab, Brewer, ca. 2006

Item 75152 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

It seems that while Lois Andrews worked in the lab she did not experience any major problems with her male colleagues.

Listen to Lois's feelings about entering the lab and how her coworkers responded to her presence.


6
The salary of female employees at Eastern, Brewer, ca. 1970-2003

The salary of female employees at Eastern, Brewer, ca. 1970-2003

Item 75467 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

As hard times fell on Eastern in the 1960s Lois was moved from the lab to a position in which she made copies of purchase orders.

Just before the mill closed in 1968 she was moved to the shipping department where she and one other woman were responsible for shipping out the last of the paper.

After the mill reopened Lois returned in 1969 and worked in the sales department for twenty-three years. When Joe Torras purchased the mill she became his executive secretary until she retired in 2000.

Lois's story shows that women who worked at Eastern could take on any number of jobs and that their opportunities were not severely limited, but they generally worked in the lower-paying positions.


7
Employees working the lab at Eastern, Brewer, ca. 1950

Employees working the lab at Eastern, Brewer, ca. 1950

Item 75133 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

With very few exceptions the lab was very much a man's world and Lois was the only woman in the lab at the time.

Lois was bumped down to lower positions as hard times fell on the mill, but after it reopened she took an office job.

Phyllis Beaulieu, another woman, took a position in the lab in 1970. She remained in the lab until she retired in 1988.


8
Women sorters, Eastern Fine Paper, Brewer, ca. 1960

Women sorters, Eastern Fine Paper, Brewer, ca. 1960

Item 70279 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

Before taking the lab job Phyllis Beaulieu had worked sorting paper like the woman shown in this picture.

In 1968 Phyllis was earning $130 a week but by the time she retired she was making $400 a week in the lab.

Even though she was paid a decent wage for the time, she still knew that she was paid less than the men she worked with and that her male counterparts had better opportunities for career advancement.


9
Paper machines and scrap paper, Brewer, ca. 1920

Paper machines and scrap paper, Brewer, ca. 1920

Item 75140 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

Phyllis recalled that all of the sorters were women and that sorting was a union job.

Sorting was an important step in ensuring the quality of the paper. Any sheets that were below standard, referred to as "broke," were discarded and men would take these pieces away. These men were responsible for "hustling broke."

"Hustling broke" meant picking up discarded bits of paper along the paper machine and returning it to the beater where it would be put back into the pulp. Although the sorters were women, men were not too far away.


10
A woman working with men, Brewer, ca. 1974-2004

A woman working with men, Brewer, ca. 1974-2004

Item 75161 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

Although "hustling broke" was mostly a job done by men, Dola Hinckley was hired for this position in 1974. She remembered being the only woman on the floor in production or any other job done by men.

While she was laid off in 1975 she returned to her job "hustling broke" shortly thereafter. She eventually found her way into the finishing department where she worked until she retired in 2000.

Dola was able to work directly with men and experienced no problems being a woman. Dola's story is significant because she did the same job many men did proving that women were just as capable.

"Hustling broke" was a more physical job than office work. Listen to Dola talk about her experience working with the men of Eastern.


11
Women and men in manufacturing, Brewer, ca. 1982-2004

Women and men in manufacturing, Brewer, ca. 1982-2004

Item 75554 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

Mark Andrews, who worked for Eastern from 1982 until it closed, was the color boss and recalled several women who worked in the manufacturing department right up until the mill closed.

He remembered that working in the manufacturing department was difficult and that there were men who could not do the job.

It seems that working in this department was not based on gender but was about an employee’s physical ability.


12
Pay differences between male and female employees, Brewer, ca.1970-2004

Pay differences between male and female employees, Brewer, ca.1970-2004

Item 75537 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

While the women of Eastern took on numerous jobs they knew their pay was not equal to that of their male counterparts and that men had more career advancement opportunities.

Anne Robinson worked as the employee services benefit coordinator in the human resources department. Anne's job was to help workers with issues relating to their benefits such as worker’s compensation.

She stated that if she were a man she would have been making $5,000 more a year.

Anne's position was not part of the union and so she did not have a system in place to guarantee her equal pay.


13
Want ad for female truck drivers, Brewer, ca. 1943

Want ad for female truck drivers, Brewer, ca. 1943

Item 75139 info
Maine Folklife Center, Univ. of Maine

While the pulp and paper industry was male dominated, women worked alongside men at Eastern.

The women who were part of the union enjoyed similar benefits to the men and were given equal opportunities to move up in their careers.

The women who worked in the office and were not part of the union, however, were kept in lower-paying positions.

Either way the mill provided jobs for many of the people, both men and women, in Brewer and this job came with certain benefits.


This slideshow contains 13 items