Woman of Steel: Bettye Ridgley

on August 16, 2021 Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project, In the Community, Stories, Women of Steel and Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , with 0 comments
Color photo of Black woman in a blue jacket and a baseball cap. Bettye Ridgley at an SEIU protest in the 1990s.

By Clair Volkening Getting her start Bettye Ridgley began her journey at Sparrows Point in 1978 as a mechanical helper in the hot strip mill. “We were what you called ‘go-fors’. You know, we’d go for the tools, go for the coffee.” Four or five months later, Bettye was laid off from the mechanical unit. […]

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Family of Steel: The Strasbaughs

on July 30, 2021 Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project, Stories and Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , with 0 comments
Black and white photograph from the 1800s showing steelworker with lunch pail The first John Benjamin Strasbaugh pictured with his lunch pail.

Editor’s Note: Three generations of the Strasbaugh family worked in the steel mill at Sparrows Point. Gloria Strasbaugh, the wife of the third John Strasbaugh, answered some questions about her family in an email interview. In the edited excerpts* below, she recalls her family’s history and their involvement with the steel mill. Who were the […]

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Accidents At the Point: 1891 Explosion

on July 15, 2021 Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project, Industrial Heritage, Stories and Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , with 0 comments
A black and white photo of blast furnace "B" from 1890 “Blast Furnace ‘B’ ready for Operation.” The first blast furnace at the Point was constructed in 1890.

By Clair Volkening On Sunday, December 8, 1891, four men were killed and five suffered injuries after an explosion in blast furnace B at Sparrows Point. The night before the explosion, workers had begun “blowing out,” or shutting down, the furnace so that repairs could be made to the firebrick walls and the furnace pipes […]

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Women of Steel: Rita Hamlet

on December 1, 2020 Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project, Industrial Heritage, Oral history, Stories, Women of Steel and Tags: , , , , , with 0 comments
A woman with dyed red hair speaks and gestures with her hands. Rita Hamlet pictured in April 2019, courtesy of Bill Barry

Rita Hamlet began working on the ore dock at Bethlehem Steel shortly after the steel industry’s consent decree of 1974 opened more pathways to employment for women and African American workers. At Bethlehem Steel, Rita worked in many different places all while raising her five children. She sat down for an interview with labor historian […]

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Women of Steel: Kathy Garrison

on November 24, 2020 Exhibits, Industrial Heritage, Oral history, Stories, Women of Steel and Tags: , , , , , with 0 comments
A black and white photo shows five women meeting to discuss union issues. Meeting of the Women of Steel, 2005. Left to right: Kathy Garrison, Deb Watnoski, Sharon Pritchard, Kathy Hamilton, Gail Fleming. Courtesy of Kathy Garrison.

Interview by Deb Weiner Kathy Garrison started working at Bethlehem Steel in 1976, not long after a consent decree required the company to stop discriminating against women and minorities. She chaired the Women of Steel group from 2004 to 2012, when the plant shut down. Here are edited excerpts from her recent interview with BSLP […]

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A Day in the Life: a Union & Civil Rights Leader

on July 23, 2020 Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project, Oral history, Stories, Updates and Tags: , , , , , , with 0 comments
Eddie Bartee Jr. and Eddie Bartee Sr., photographed by J. M. Giordano. Three generations of Bartees worked at Sparrows Point and became union activists.

The Bethlehem Steel community lost a beloved figure when Eddie Bartee Sr. passed away in March at age 85. The son and nephew of steelworkers, he grew up in the company town of Sparrows Point and followed his father into the mill in 1955. The first African American president of Local 2609, he was a […]

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