Voices in the Coalshed: Terri with an I
I see you looking at me. What do you see?
Inspired by H A Freeth’s Pen Portrait, our Voices in the Coalshed volunteers have had a go at writing a Pen Portrait themselves using images from our current Face to Face exhibition (https://www.ncm.org.uk/news/voices-in-the-coalshed-pen-portrait/).
Here Nicola has chosen the portrait of Terri Westerman:
Sometimes I can almost hear people’s brains turning until the question forms; “Is that a woman in that photo?”
It is and it isn’t. Sometimes it was easier for the people I worked with at Kellingley Colliery to regard me as, “One of the lads”, to ignore the fact of me being a woman at all. Except when they had a good joke of course. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job.
Your next thought would be, “I thought women weren’t allowed to work in mines.”
Right again, the Mines and Collieries Act of 1842 forbade women and children under 10 from working underground but more modern laws changed all that and gender equality meant that women could be back in mining.
Not all straightforward of course, but you didn’t really expect that did you?
For every person who thought of me as one of the lads was another seeing me as a woman in a man’s world. Others held onto old superstitions about women in mines bringing bad luck. They didn’t think that when they were working as thrusters, or trappers did they? Or when they were the pit nurse caring for them when they were hurt? No.
I often wonder about how people see me.
I am not a hurrier, or a thruster, or a trapper, or a pit brow lass; I am Terri Westerman, a qualified fitter.
Not Terry, short for Terence, but Terri with an I!
This week’s Voices in the Coalshed was researched and written by our volunteer Nicola. If you would like to join Voices in the Coal Shed, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
©Anton Want/NCMME 2012