Work Environment

Oral Histories

Dianne Williams

Dianne Williams remembers the numbers of women workers and treatment.

Dianne Williams: When I first came into the postal service it wasn’t a real friendly atmosphere for women. I was like one of the pioneer women. There were a few women there when I came into the Postal Service, but very few compared to males. So it wasn’t a really friendly atmosphere because you had some of the men, and I came in as a mail handler, who felt like the work was not work for women. And they felt that we should just not be part of that particular work force. Because I worked on the work room floor, loading and unloading trucks. And then you had another general feeling of the co-workers was, well, you took this job, and anything we can do, you can do, and there’s no such thing as something that’s too heavy for you, and you can’t do this, or you can’t do that, because it’s equal pay.

Jane Broendel

Jane Broendel discusses the number of women working at her first position.

Jane Broendel: I started in 1984. I have one child, she was 6 months old. At that time Davenport, Iowa, was maybe somewhat different than a number of other areas shall we say. Because they already had a few women on the working floor. I was probably one of maybe 100 carriers, 40 downtown, 60 at the other. And I would say when I was downtown there was at least 1/2 a dozen women, if not more. And a couple of them had been there for quite some time. And one of them was actually in the minority, a Hispanic woman another was white. No black carriers. A male black carrier came in later, one had left previously. But pretty much just mostly white men. There were some women, but again the percentage of women was higher in Davenport, and still is. I would say Davenport must be close to 40 percent female carriers. The national average, I just got the figures actually yesterday for a column I’m doing. Nationally we’re at 27% female carriers.

Monica Walker

Monica Walker speaks of the increase in women workers.

Monica Walker: When I first started there were pretty much 7-8 of us, a big station, 7-8 women. But now there’s in our station about half women and half men in our station now.

Janet Stout

Janet Stout discusses women’s retention rate.

Janet Stout: Well, the traditional, um, often times, uh, if a women got married, um, she left the service for whatever reasons. It took a long time for the Inspection Service to figure out how to accommodate a-a pregnant agent, um, or a pregnant inspector. Um, the travel particularly on audit, where most I would, guessing about 90 percent of the women went, uh, was a, um, travel assignment where you were traveling all the time and so that’s not, uh, conducive to a healthy relationships in some case so if you were in a relationship that was an extra strain on it, um, so the retention, there was actually a study done—I can’t remember when but I think it was around ’88, ’89, uh, about the retention of women in the Service and that may be available. I may actually have a copy somewhere, but, um, they actually did a study, uh, to see why they were losing so many women and it was not un-it was not different, um, than other federal agencies.

Monica Walker

Monica Walker discusses interactions with customers.

Monica Walker: The customers really accept women, because they feel that we do a better job than the men do. As a woman no, I have never had any problem with a customer.

Joyce Olivera

Joyce Olivera talks about her customers joking with her about “men’s work.”

Joyce Olivera: I know I was out changing locks on some of the post office boxes and, uh, doing all kind of things that need to be done. And, I would get a comment once in a while that, “A woman shouldn’t be doing that! A woman doesn’t know how to do that!”

Kathy Yager

Kathy Yager remembers her first post office’s restroom facilities.

Kathy Yager: The first office I worked in was Newton and I was the second woman hired. The other woman had been hired one month before me. The man who was in charge of that office said at that time, they would never have a woman in that office. They did not have a women’s restroom. They had a restroom in the basement for the men next to the, uh, what we used to call the “Sling Room,” which is like a, um, break room. So, when the other lady and I got there, the postmaster also had a bathroom in his office. <gasp> And, we told him, well, we can use yours or you can get us one. So, they-they made a storage room into a facility for her and I Course, it did not have any air conditioning in it. Um, we were told quite frequently that-that-uh. And it showed up in scheduling of hours.

Marge Oehlke

Marge Oehlke talks about being a female postmaster.

Marge Oehlke: As a postmaster when I first started at the post office, my very first post office, as postmaster, I think customers were a little surprised at first, they had had males in that office as postmasters for all of the years prior to my arrival at the post office and my appointment, but I think between the modern dates I gave to you, in the office, because of the knowledge of the postal office functions and procedures, that, you know, I was able to help my customers and also I think and I’m not one to pat myself on the back and please don’t put that (MARGE: laughing) into your interview, I think because of the friendly disposition, before you know it, the whole community, they welcomed me with open arms because of all of those things.

Marge Oehlke

Marge Oehlke talks about her first experience as a letter carrier.

Marge Oehlke: When I was first hired as a city carrier, I was the first female to have made-passed the probationary period in that particular mid-sized office. I was mentored by some of the more seasoned employees, however, there were a few men that were apprehensible about a woman doing, what they considered, a man’s job, but I proved to myself and others that I could do the job and I belonged. Four of the things that I found to be very, very important to avoid stumbling blocks in a woman’s life are: motivating yourself and others to reach their potentials, to communicate effectively and believe in what you say, to be a continual learner, and to maintain your integrity.

Jane Broendel

Jane Broendel discusses the use of equipment and uniforms.

Jane Broendel: The women we could have culottes, but basically otherwise it was the pants, the shorts. But by the time I started in 1984 there wasn’t this issue with the way the clothing fit, with a separate line for women, a separate line for men. I imagine in the earlier days there was a uniform problem where they wouldn’t be able to get pants that fit, shirts that fit, but now you know you have got coats, you’ve got hosiery, you’ve got the shoes, men’s and women’s sizes, I guess the hats and sweaters, pretty much one size, between the genders. Even the shoe chains. You know in Iowa of course it gets snowy & messy. So when it was really bad out they gave us these chains, they were inside these rubbery kind of thing you slipped them over your feet to help you not fall down in the ice and the snow.

Marydith Newman

Marydith Newman recalls being teased as a new employee.

Marydith Newman: One thing about law enforcement is that, you know, they’ll eat their own (laughs), you know, and you kind of have to have a tough exterior and you have to, you have to have a sense of humor to stay, you know. I was also the youngest person in the office, um—I think I was 25 when I started there—so they, um, you know, they gave me a hard time, they used to tease me a lot, and the, you know, they’re all like family now, they’re great guys but you kind of have to have a tough exterior, you know, tough skin. So, um, they were a good group though. And you have to prove yourself to them because at first they don’t, you know, they-they want to make sure that you know how to do your job, or if you’re safe, you know.