Physical Work

Oral Histories

Jacqueline Moore

Jacqueline Moore remembers lifting the 70lbs. mailbags, and talks about working to advance in the service.

Jacqueline Moore: By the time, uh, I got into the Post Office there were quite a few there and it sort of broken the ground, so to speak. One of the things that tickled me the day I went in is the fact that all the women that were with me, we all had to pick up these 70 pound bags in order to get the job, and the men would all stand back against the wall with their arms folded and watch us. In fact they watched us the rest of the week no matter what we were picking up or doing. They figured that because we were getting paid the same money we would have to pick up and shove and push and whatever, but I was lucky enough to get, um, onto a-a PA scheme, and I stayed there, working my scheme in Pennsylvania until I left in ’74. Nothing unusual really happened, um. For a while I worked. I didn’t (inaudible) I can’t remember the name. Oh, one of the things they had was a school, and you could go up and take classes so I took every class that was offered um. They just starting-started really with the computers so I took that. I took some math classes; I took, some postal. Oh, I don’t know,-I ended up with several certificates and a lot of things that I really never used, but the idea was that it was up there and it was free so you took advantage of it.

Judy Beard

Judy Beard recalls lifting the heavy mailbags.

Judy Beard: We were put on the manual operations or we were put in partials, separating packages. And after you fill the sack, you would have to actually move that sack itself, regardless of the pounds of the sack, to a place where it would be dispatched. That was sort of hard, because the sacks were sort of heavy. And we did it, sometimes the lady would ask someone to help you move the sack, and management would say, you were hired, you agreed to be able to lift so many pounds, but we would still, you know, get help in lifting sacks, because we understood the importance of our safety and our health. We understood that management couldn’t really make us do anything that would injure us or cause us injury.

Judy Beard

Judy Beard reveals that working the mail can be dirty business.

Judy Beard: It appears to be a job that is not exactly blue color, because it doesn’t appear to be a dirty job, but the plants are very dirty. They, uh, you dress in blue jeans or t-shirts or sweat shirts, but when you get home at night, when you shower, you realize how much dirt actually exists in the plant. And this would always frighten me, that you don’t always see dirt, but it is a very dirty place. And dealing with mail, period, you never know whose hands have been on the mail, and you know washing your hands often caused the women I worked with their hands became very hard and scaly and some of them even broke out. So they started wearing the gloves while they were working But some jobs it was awkward and you don’t work as fast with gloves on. It was a different experience. Thanks to the union, who really continuously worked to ensure that our rights were protected, and it make a huge difference in my life and my friends’ life, and every postal women’s life today.

Michele Ditchey

Michele Ditchey talks about those heavy mailbags.

Michele Ditchey: Things were a lot different. Guys didn’t hold the door for you, there was no such thing as a gentleman, everybody did, had to pull their own weight, that meant picking up 75 pounds on a consistent, every day, several times a day, carrying everything yourself. When I came into the postal service, probably only 20% were women and where I came from we were expected to do better than the guys because it was just expected, and we did do better than the guys for the most part.

Wendy Kelly

Wendy Kelly remembers the early days of moving heavy mailbags.

Wendy Kelly: When I came in 1980, there was a definite difference and I worked on the work floor. I was not a confidential secretary at the time. And, I was treated differently because the job area where I worked was predominantly male. So, we had to take in bags and, um, take things off the truck-mail off the truck. So, when we would ask for assistance, we were told, “Well, you were hired just like me, so you have to do just like I do.” So, you-so, it was not discrimination; you were just told that, “You were hired based on your qualifications, not because of your gender. So, you must do everything that I do.