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Trail BC’s Fighting Ladies’ Auxiliary – A Podcast

August 12, 2016
By

Moments in Labour History

 

009 Trail Ladies Loc 131 005In June 1944, about thirty women in Trail, BC, were chartered as Ladies Auxiliary Local 131. By 1946 there were 25 such auxiliaries across Canada.

Back then, Steel Local 480 was a Mine-Mill union fighting for certification against a company union set up decades earlier by Cominco president S.G. Blaylock.

Local 480 was happy to have the women around to cook meals at union events, hold bake sales to pump up the union kitty, and sponsor the odd game of whist or cribbage. But the women had other ideas.

A few months before Local 131 was created, Local 480 president Fred Henne addressed a meeting of women including his wide Edna.

Steel podcast posterA ladies auxiliary president from Idaho named Lucia Sigfried was present and she heard Fred say that the new group would kind of tag along behind Local 480.

Well, hold on Fred, said Sigfried. A ladies’ auxiliary just doesn’t “follow along. ” It works side by side with the local.

And so they did, walking the picket line, broadcasting the union message over the radio, and writing for the union press.

When Local 480 was under attack during the Cold War and Steelworkers were raiding in Trail, Local 131 member Tillie Belanger broadcast her support for Local 480 over the CJAT airwaves.

Belanger and others also lent a helping had to other women who wanted to start their own ladies’ auxiliaries.

In one example from 1954, Local 131 sent a group over to help organize a ladies auxiliary to support striking workers at the Blue Bell Mine in Riondel. They also sponsored a sports day for the children of strikers.

Local 131 was one good reason why American labour troubadour Woodie Guthrie thought a lot of Ladies’ Auxiliaries. So much so that in 1944 he wrote this song your hearing now.

For Moments in Labour History, I’m Ron Verzuh.

Music: Woody Guthrie’s Ladies’ Auxiliary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvnxdLptWZA.

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