When I was in my twenties, I knew that I was quite strong for a woman, feminine but strong as in physical labor was easy for me and I enjoyed heavy work. A whole-body sweat felt good to me, and I enjoyed the warm feeling of well-worked muscles. I once walked into a new weightlifting gym and easily did a free weight squat-dead lift-overhead—lifting the barbell from my feet smoothly up over my head and back down to the ground—of such a weight that the guys said their top woman lift competitor had trained for years without being able to do the same. Not bragging, just saying...
I had not found my way into university studies yet, and I was looking about for a job, and hoping for a career. When I saw an advertisement for a bricklayer apprenticeship*, I thought that might be the proverbial stepping stone to a career as a mason, working with stone, creating beautiful, long-lasting structures with arguably the most natural, beautiful material of the earth. I was in earnest when I telephoned to apply. To make a short story even shorter, the deep-voiced, male registrar made me repeat myself several times before gasping, “!?! You want to apply for bricklaying? You, a girl!?! Ha, ha, ha, ha!!!”, he laughed, sputtered, and choked with derision; and then he said goodbye firmly and hung up on me. He was definitely not going to take my application. I already knew that men could make rejection stick so I did not call back to try and join their trade. In the 1970s it was probably simply not possible.
I continued to lift weights as a hobby and I went on to work with kiln-fired clay for a while (able with effort to lift and carry a 100-pound sack of pottery clay on my shoulder—really), but it was not the same, not at all. Somewhere in my wistful dreams are massive stone monuments of intense and heavy beauty: made of marble, granite, gneiss, slate, limestone, basalt, and even finely tooled, beautifully tinted concrete block. They would have lasted forever.
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* “A bricklayer, which is related to but different from a mason, is a craftsman who lays bricks to construct brickwork. The terms also refer to personnel who use blocks to construct blockwork walls and other forms of masonry...A stone mason is one who lays any combination of stones, cinder blocks, and bricks in construction of building walls and other works. The main difference between a bricklayer and a true mason is skill level: bricklaying is a part of masonry and considered to be a "lower" form of masonry, whereas stonemasonry is a specialist occupation involved in the cutting and shaping of stones and stonework.”
Caption: Laughed Out Of A Brickwork Apprenticeship
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018