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High Voltage Women: Breaking Barriers at Seattle City Light

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  11 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Literary Nonfiction. Women's Studies. The gripping story of a multi-racial group of women who put their bodies on the line to gain a foothold in the male and largely white electrical trades at Seattle's publicly owned utility in the 1970s. Female pioneers implemented affirmative action in the face of life-threatening sexism and racism. Some saw the trades as just a means t ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 8th 2019 by Red Letter Press
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Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
**I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for this review**

Anyone who champions the underdog will love High Voltage Women, the inspiring story of the first women to complete the Electrical Trades Trainee program at Seattle City Light. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of the 1970’s, Ellie Belew’s readable account draws a complete picture of the institutional, emotional, and physical hardships these trailblazers faced. Belew’s portrayal of her subjects is affectionate and intimate,
Ed Zirkwitz
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Seattle City Light, founded in 1905, is an almost 2 thousand employee public utility,
providing electrical power to the city of Seattle. Going back about 80 years local and
national affirmative action laws saw their beginnings in the USA. This well documented
case study shows that women in the early 1970s and years beyond faced great walls
in breaking into all areas of work at City Light. Over decades, from city mayors, to top
utility bureaucrats maintained a discriminatory culture against women (m
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: seattle, history
High Voltage Women tells the story of the obstacles faced by ten pioneers breaking sex barriers at Seattle City Light in the 1970's. The first women of the Electrical Trades Program - along with their director and champion Clara Fraser - were met with sexism and racism from their male co-workers. Some will consider this a tale of ``how things used to be'' but only a couple of years ago there were new allegations of sexual harassment at City Light. A poignant story in the book concerns Heidi Durh ...more
Disclosure: I received this book to review.

Off the top: it is unlikely I would have selected this book to buy in a bookstore, or even to borrow free from the library. The subject material is not what I generally gravitate towards: a history of women breaking into the patriarchal Seattle lighting utility trades back in the early 1970s. No, I would have passed it by, and that would have been a shame.

I was a young married woman in the early 1970s, living and working low-pay jobs in Vancouver, Canad
Jared Houston
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a thrilling read for anyone who has ever faced discrimination on the job. It tells the bold and compelling of the first women to enter the macho world of the electrical trades through the "ETT" pre-apprenticeship program, the first Affirmative Action undertaking of its kind. On their journey, they faced bureaucrats, bosses, and bigotry. And they withstood it all. But they also built a network of solidarity with their coworkers, particularly men of color, as well as other women.

The book a
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The story the author tells of women breaking into the electrical trades in Seattle is a powerful one. She says enough about each of the 10 very different women who were part of an affirmative action training program in the 1970s so that the reader is invested in what happens to them as they deal with racism, sexism, harassment and bullying on the job -- and mainly with a management that didn't really want them there, even though bringing them in was management's idea. It's great that for the mos ...more

Seattle City Light hired 10 women for the first time in the 1970's .... and then fired them because of rampant sexism. It ended in a 7 ½ year legal battle for reinstatement of the women workers.

#3CR community radio Stick Together programme went to the Melbourne launch of Ellie Belew’s book High Voltage Women, published byRed Letter Press, which tells the story of these heroic women workers.

Wherever you are whatever you do there’s a Union for you.
Jun 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Worth reading if you want to understand how to fight against sexism in your workplace. The key is solidarity and not just in the ways you imagine. When one of the local union leadership referred to these women as those Radical Socialist Bitches, they made up buttons that said RSB - Radical Socialist Bitches to the next union meeting and won the men over. And it's cool to see the end of the book reference recent Seattle events that my office was involved with. [I share office space with an attorn ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly thorough and clearly written story of how women in Seattle broke into the electrical trades at Seattle City Light, in spite of many barriers and obstacles - both from management and co-workers. As a Seattleite at the time, I was inspired by the persistence and bravery of the women involved. Important history and examples for all in the labor movement on how to fight back against sexism on the job and in the courts and organize support from your co-workers and the community. ...more
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