Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Women repair road, heckle men who won’t

In an April 21, 1967, Associated Press story, a group of angry women took the old adage “If you want something done right, do it yourself” to heart when a road through rural Digness, West Virginia, fell into sad disrepair and none of the “menfolk” seemed interested in fixing it.

The road winding along Twelve Pole Creek serviced 400-500 families, and had not been touched since it was paved in 1963. A team of women ranging in age from teens to sixties took up sledgehammers, shovels and wheelbarrows to fill potholes along the road, in some places so tattered that cars could move no faster than 10 miles an hour. In a week the women had repaired almost a mile of the asphalt roadway, but were looking at dozens of miles of back-breaking labor before they were finished.

But they were not only working to repair the road. They were also protesting the men who, the women said, were too lazy to do the work. At issue was the state welfare program offering $1 per hour to unemployed fathers to work on public projects, with some 700 local men receiving aid. “You can see them sitting up there on their porches, not doing anything and drawing that welfare pay. It’s getting to their morality,” one lady worker declared.

The women, who worked four hours a day in a team of 20, heckled men walking and driving along the road while they shoveled dirt, filled holes and wielded 12-pound sledgehammers to crush rock into gravel. But their attempts at shaming didn’t seem to make much difference. Some of the men interviewed contended they were working on other projects. And many of them also said the women should stay home and “mind the kitchen.”

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