Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Women in Electrical Department

Women generally performed jobs that required less physical strength. At Burrard Dry Dock, the majority did finishing tasks in the electrical shop or acted as passers in riveting gangs. However, some worked as plate markers, carpenters’ helpers, derrick signallers, store helpers, hammer drivers, bolt threaders, or in other positions previously reserved for men. Hiring preference was given to young and single women. The first ones hired had to fight for respect and union membership, but they were accepted when they proved their ability to do the job. Safety regulations obliged women to eschew jewellery and tuck up their hair in bandannas, caps and hats. A Burrard Dry Dock poster of the period emphasized the glamour of a bandanna-cap combination, adding that “the girls are going for it in a big way because it’s streamlined and smart.” Some tried to give their outfits a feminine touch by wearing coveralls with puffed sleeves and form-fitting belts.

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Women perform finishing work in the Burrard Dry Dock electrical shop. Armature winding and small-motor assembly were major tasks here.

The electrical store and department was specially built in August 1942 on the north side of the shipyard to meet the demands of wartime production.

This photo was taken in July of 1945 in the upper floor of the shop. The lower level housed transformers that directed electrical power to the yard’s substations and many air compressors.

Val Attwood, Peggy Milstead and Sue Ferguson make straps for electric cable, while Gladys Conway drills fixtures and Jean McKay punches straps.

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