A bold, inspiring debut memoir by the first female ironworker in the state of New Mexico.
Padilla is the second of nine children raised in a “humble two-bedroom home” by hardworking parents without high school diplomas. She recalls the Spanish culture in her upbringing: “women usually learned at an early age that one important role in their lives was the care of family, especially the men.” Independent, ambitious and determined, Padilla had no intention of letting her gender dictate her career. At 26, despite opposition from men and women alike, she became an apprentice under Ironworkers Local 495. Her desire “to learn a skill and have a title with responsibilities” propelled her through the difficulties of her first post as “one female among twenty-five-hundred [men] at the power plant.” A talented ironworker, Padilla developed an excellent reputation and the respect of most of her colleagues. Though her personal life isn’t at the forefront of her story, she describes her unsuccessful first marriage and her wonderful second one. She’s also generous with praise for peers as well as herself—a tendency that occasionally weakens the narrative. It’s clear that her colleagues’ admiration of her is well-earned, but there are times when the repeated references to this err on the side of boasting: “I worked hard and did a good job, making it look easy.” Nonetheless, her awe for the craft is unwavering: “[I]ronworkers are artists—make no mistake about that.” The descriptions of workplace conflict grow tedious—“I had again to prove that I was up to the task”—perhaps since Padilla repeatedly faces the same obstacles. She sustains two significant injuries during her career, the second of which occurs during a negative experience in which she faces “cliques…just as in high school,” forcing her to stop “work[ing] in iron.” Although the final pages show an ugly underside of the “brotherhood,” the overall tone is one of good cheer. “I knew I would face many firsts,” Padilla writes. “I just hoped I lived to talk about them.”
A confident, witty tale of triumph and sacrifice.