Sunday, 31 July 2016

Blacksmith Girl Power

In the 19th Century, people would expect to see women cooking, cleaning, and raising their children, and would be puzzled by a female swinging a hammer or working at the forge. During the 19th century, some trades, like blacksmithing, were seen as only “men’s work.” Although today many talented blacksmiths are female, almost all blacksmiths in the 19th century were male. However, there is recorded evidence of at least a couple of females in the trade.  The first two short biographies are about female blacksmiths in the 19th century and the third biography is about a female blacksmith today.

Unknown woman blacksmith
in the 19th century

1880: Female blacksmith Rachel Yent, of Baltimore, Maryland, learnt the blacksmith trade from her father as a young girl. She refused to marry in order to support her family with the trade when her father was no longer able to work in the shop. 

1882: During a town meeting in Sudbury, Ontario, the question up for debate was whether or not “women who are citizens should have the right to vote on town affairs on the same basis as male citizens.” Sudbury’s first woman blacksmith, Mrs. Hattie Graham, proposed to do business in a shop owned by another woman Miss Mary Heard on Concord Road in Sudbury, which was soon to be a problem. On opening day in 1895, many cheering women showed up, and stunned and curious men, to observe Graham’s skills. Angry protests made by people, especially men, about Hattie Graham’s registration were soon withdrawn after they witnessed her skills. Years following, her work was seen as outstanding work-“women” – ship from both men and women.

Product made by Armstrong
and Carter Iron Works 
Megan Carter 
2016: Female Blacksmiths today are just as talented as men, which was seen at this year’s Blacksmith Festival at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum. Megan Carter displayed her outstanding skills. Megan was born in Kingsville, Ontario in 1991. In 2010, she began her metalworking studies at Haliburton School of The Arts followed by a year of Arts Studies at the same college. After her studies, both her and her partner Mike Armstrong combined their skills to become what is known as Armstrong and Carter Ironworks. Although she works mostly in mild steel and copper, she has moved towards making furniture and functional pieces containing reclaimed objects. She is now located in Georgetown, Ontario, where she and Mike Armstrong opened their own shop in 2012.  Megan notes that a large part of the life of a blacksmith is "doing drawings, design, quotes, and conversing with clients," which all needs to be done before she can even get into the shop to create a custom piece.  

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