Sign of the times: Women at work in Lincoln

Posted Aug. 30, 2010, at 7:54 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:29 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — To Dawn Grover, it was more of a joke than anything else.

Grover saw the triangular, bright orange “Men Working” sign at the $3.5 million Lakeview Senior Housing project construction site last week and couldn’t help adding the appropriate prefix to show that she and Karen Harriman work there too, she said.

“And we both wear our pink helmets,” Grover said Monday.

The male workers on the site could have replaced the sign, but instead kept the slightly altered one that Grover put up on Main Street last Thursday, she said.

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“It makes her feel good,” co-worker Rusty McCullough said.

Since its debut, the sign has proved popular, Grover said. Motorists, especially of the female variety, often honk their horns and wave to her as they pass by.

“Sometimes,” Grover said, “I will hear people yell, ‘You go, girl.’ Another time a bunch of girls drove by yelling, ‘Way to go, ladies.’”

“I love it,” Harriman said of the sign. “It speaks out for women. It’s equal rights. Having a sign like that makes a woman feel powerful, that we can do anything a man can do.”

The women weren’t implying any criticism of their male colleagues with the sign, said Grover, a 37-year-old resident of Orrington.

“They treat us well here,” Grover said. Then she added teasingly, “I don’t get any respect — just like any one of the guys.”

A laborer, carpenter’s helper and forklift operator for Perry & Morrill Inc., one of the contractors on the job, Harriman hopes to go into carpentry full time. She got the job June 14 through On-The-Job Training, a program offered through the Maine State Housing Authority that works to get people into the trades.

“When I tell people what I do, women say, ‘Wow, you have done a lot,’” Harriman said. “The men just get very straight-faced. They really don’t know what to think.”

Grover is co-owner of D&H Construction of Orrington, one of the project’s subcontractors.

Construction of the 24-unit apartment building is due to conclude by Oct. 1. The construction site is the last property to be revitalized in the wake of two arsons that destroyed a quarter of the downtown in 2002. Construction is being overseen by Penquis, the Bangor-based social services agency that will help find suitable ten-ants for the building when it is finished.

Grover and Harriman like the work and take pride in their versatility. They just wish somebody would come up with a sign that’s more gender-neutral.

“I don’t know, maybe it could say, ‘Crews Working,’ or something,” Grover said.

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