A majority-women crew organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation began work on restoring the historic clerestory windows of the Odd Fellows building in downtown Astoria, OR. This team will be the first all-female-led project and first majority-female HOPE (hands-on preservation experience) Crew cohort in the program’s seven-year history. The project will be led by Oakland-based glass conservator Ariana Makau, President and Founder of Nzilani Glass Conservation and the first woman to receive a Master’s Degree in Stained Glass Conservation from the Royal College of Art in London.
As a leader in the national preservation movement, the National Trust recognizes that women are essential to all facets of preservation – from the places being saved to the people saving them. Which is why the lack of women in construction trades is particularly problematic. Even before the pandemic, women made up only 3.4 percent of construction trades workers according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
“Women are woefully underrepresented in the construction industry, including the restoration trades,” said Christina Morris of the National Trust’s campaign for Where Women Made History. “It’s an area of enormous potential and one where women can achieve something close to pay equity. By creating an experience where young women work alongside women property owners, design professionals, contractors, and entrepreneurs to preserve places of women’s history, we’re opening the door to a wide range of new career opportunities they may never have considered.”
Preservation trades are promising job prospects for women since the gender pay gap in the construction industry is significantly narrower than the national average. As infrastructure projects take center stage in the nation-wide work of building back from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Odd Fellows project offers a glimpse of what a female-led future could look like.
Women-led: Landlords to Laborers
Originally built as a fraternal lodge in 1922, the Odd Fellows building was purchased by three local businesswomen in 2018 and now houses four women-led businesses. Restoration of the building has been a labor of love, involving both the local community and a national funding base including the National Trust.
In 2019, the Odd Fellows building won a Partners in Preservation: Main Street grant geared specifically toward projects associated with women and women’s history for $150,000 from the National Trust and American Express which funded external renovations to the building. In 2020, a paint donation from a partnership between Benjamin Moore and the National Trust’s Where Women Made History program led to a dramatic exterior transformation. This month’s two-week, paid HOPE Crew project will restore the building’s 100-year-old clerestory windows.
To amplify the impact of the Odd Fellows HOPE Crew project, the National Trust will offer a one-day community workshop on July 17 at the Odd Fellows building. Local community members are invited to participate from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm on site at 342 10th Street. Additionally, “how-to” videos will be produced during the project for inclusion in an innovate online Learning Lab in order to extend the learning beyond this project. This will be the first learning documentation video hosted by the HOPE Crew. With these online assets, the team hopes to be able to engage a wider, more diverse audience who may not have access to in-person learning workshops or trades training programs.
HOPE Crew: Building a More Equitable Future
The Odd Fellows HOPE Crew, which will follow all local and federal COVID-19 safety protocols, will be composed of six young people – four women and two men - enrolled in local pre-apprenticeship programs at the Tongue Point Job Corps, a program of the U.S. Department of Labor. Supporting the project is lead funder TAWANI Foundation and local women-led company Dovetail Women's Workwear which will be providing complimentary workwear to the HOPE Crew participants.
“HOPE Crew gives underrepresented groups increased access to careers in preservation trades,” said Milan Jordan, Director of HOPE Crew at the National Trust. “What women need from the trades industry right now is opportunity, mentorship, and an invitation to the table. HOPE Crew addresses all three of these needs and is shifting the narrative on who can lead in this industry.”
Since its inception in 2014, HOPE Crew has completed 165 projects, trained more than 750 young people and veterans, and engaged over 3,700 volunteers in historic preservation trades.
As the Odd Fellows project proves, involving more women in the process of preservation – from business owners to glass conservators – is not only good for the past. It’s good for the future.