A lengthy article in the “Pacific Coast Lumberman” magazine of June, 1918, describes how Hammond Cedar, under the direction of part owner and manager Doan Hartnell, was the first mill in Canada to employ “girls”. When asked why he had made this decision, Hartnell referred to problems with the “Chinese boys” who had been doing the work after many of Hammond’s young men had gone to war. It had occurred to him, sparked by a visit to Washington State where a similar scheme had been implemented, that
“if girls of robust constitution could be persuaded to enter the mill and to take an interest in the business, it would be beneficial not only to them, but also to his mill from an economic standpoint. The result of his search for strong and willing maidens was that he received no less than fifty applications”.
The first four young women hired were Del [Lucy Delilah] Land, Irene McWhinnie, Mabel Graham and Vena Wylie. They were primarily employed in grading lumber though also put in their time loading lumber on trucks for the dry kilns. Their working outfits are described as follows:
“It is needless to say that the work is such that the orthodox frills and furbelows so dear to the feminine heart must of necessity be discarded in an occupation which brings the girls in contact with machinery, though not in immediate contact. A serviceable “rigout” of khaki bloomers with blouse of the same material, the somber hue of the cloth being relieved by a scarf, nattily worn, with a black cap to finish off, give the girls a smart look. In fact the costume rather adds than detracts from their appearance.”
The Hammond Mill ‘experiment’ was closely watched by other mills in BC and across Canada. The young women performed their tasks so well and with such intelligence and attention to detail, that the practice of hiring women spread quickly. But despite the high praise, as soon as the war was over and the men returned, these young women soon went back to more traditional occupations.
When WWII came upon us, the women of Hammond again responded to a shortage of male mill workers by joining the workforce. This time, they worked at producing shingles and lumber for the wartime market. When WWII ended, many of the women stayed on and continued in this employment for many years.
Sadly, we have no images of these young ladies at work.
Hammond Community Crier, May 2000