Kate Braid


Hammer & Nail: Notes of a Journeywoman

Kate’s new book of essays and stories, Hammer & Nail: Notes of a Journeywoman, published by Caitlin Press, is available in Canadian bookstores, on-line and directly from the publisher now.  It will be available in the US in spring 2021.

In the long-awaited follow-up to her 2012 memoir, Journeywoman, Kate Braid returns with an honest and thought-provoking collection of essays, stories and notes reflecting on her career in a male-dominated profession and on the changes female tradespeople have witnessed.

In 1977, Kate Braid began work as one of the first women to stumble (literally) into construction. Since then, feminism, the #MeToo movement, pay equity legislation and other efforts have led to more women in a wider variety of careers. Yet, the number of women in blue-collar trades has barely shifted—from three percent to a mere four.

In Journeywoman, Braid told a personal story of working almost exclusively with all-male construction crews. In Hammer & Nail: Notes of a Journeywoman, Braid returns to the trades with courage, compassion, and humour. Connecting her lifetime of experiences as a construction worker, as well as an educator and writer, Braid reflects on the culture of labour and recalls the thrill of realizing her own skill and capabilities.

Through stories, articles and speeches, Hammer & Nail sheds new light on our ideas of traditional gender roles—and how those ideas change in small but profound moments of gentleness, strength, humility and clarity on the job. Hammer & Nail is a thought-provoking collection of the highs and lows, the laughs, the heartaches and some of the lessons of Braid’s journey.


Hammer and Nail reads like sports reporter Alison Gordon’s baseball memoir Foul Ball! in its often humorous and always pointed examination of a traditionally male sphere resistant to female intrusion. In essayistic chapters, Braid offers insider information about things we’d never know as laypeople. […] framing her years of working as a journeywoman through the more current lenses of the pandemic, #MeToo, and the struggle for diversity in the workplace.”
Quill & Quire

“Through a series of micro-essays she provides details of her working life, practical advice for women in trades, and feminist readings of male spaces. … Braid deftly threads herself throughout the narrative as a constant guide through rough yet rewarding terrain. Woven throughout the whole text is a beautiful love story where the reader gets hints and samples of Braid’s passion for her craft.”
The Ormsby Review

Read More »

Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World


“Since women started working in the trades in the 1970s, very little has been published about their experiences. In this provocative and important book, Kate Braid tells the story of how she learned the carpentry trade in the face of skepticism and discouragement.

She was one of the first qualified women carpenters in British Columbia, the first woman to join the Vancouver local of the Carpenters’ Union, the first to teach construction full-time at the BC Institute of Technology and one of the first women to run her own construction company. Though she loved the work, it was not an easy career choice but slowly she carved a role for herself, asking first herself, then those who would challenge her, why shouldn’t a woman be a carpenter?

Told with humour, compassion and courage, Journeywoman is the true story of a groundbreaking woman finding success in a male-dominated field.”

See what reviewers and readers have to say about Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World.

Read More »

Emily Carr: Rebel Artist

“The more isolated Emily felt from her family, the more she clung to the idea of painting. No doubt her sisters saw it as a mere hobby, a pastime. But Emily’s dream of becoming an artist was nurtured by the French painter C.A. de L’Aubinière and his English artist-wife, Georgina, who probably taught Emily briefly in 1886.

“She was in awe of them because they were the first ‘real’ artists she had met – but she was oddly disappointed when she saw their pictures. Their landscapes did not seem at all Canadian to her, though no one yet knew exactly what a ‘Canadian’ painting should look like. In the European tradition, landscapes were panoramas of peaceful meadows with the odd tree, a cow perhaps, beside a quiet stream. They didn’t look at all like the British Columbia Emily knew, where, just outside the city, endless acres of trees towered above an almost impenetrable undergrowth, and the cow was in her back yard.

Nonetheless, the two Europeans sowed a seed that made Emily sling an old pair of shoes across her rafters. Now, every time she had a little money she pushed it into the shoes. She had a plan.”

Read More »

Red Bait! Struggles of a Mine Mill Local

Written with Al King.

Al King was an organizer, Local 480 (Trail, British Columbia) president and eventually western Board member of the International Union of Mine-Mill & Smelterworkers, a trade union that was – depending on your point of view – a Communist hotbed or one of the most progressive unions in North American history. He tells a fascinating story, unrecorded elsewhere, of the growth and challenges to Mine-Mill from 1937 when he got his first job as a labourer at Consolidated Mining (now Cominco) in British Columbia, to the time when the union voted to merge with the Steelworkers Union and beyond.

“We had known they were planning to do something but this was astounding. Following the raiding actions, John Gordon…called a big meeting in the Legion Hall to decide what to do. When I left to go to the meeting Lillian said to me, ‘Please be careful.’ She knew feelings were running high and she was worried about fist fights.

“The usual turnout for a union meeting was twenty or thirty men but that night 600 showed up, many of them young veterans. There were so many, they couldn’t all fit in the hall. They filled up the building and overflowed outside, down the steps and into the street. When we saw those numbers, we knew we had a chance.”

Read More »

The Fish Come in Dancing: Stories from the West-Coast Fishery

A collection of interviews of eight of British Columbia’s fishermen – including one fisherwoman – who in 2002 still worked in the rapidly disappearing fishing industry off British Columbia’s west coast.

”Meanwhile on the beach, the beach man had tied the net to a tree. I guess it was a good two-foot around. Just at the right time, the tide changed. Old Frankie says, ‘Now you’re gonna catch some fish.’ We’re straining against the tide when all of a sudden the tree the net’s tied to comes out of the ground. It flies up in the air and comes right down on top of the skiff. Now, there’s a fifty-foot tree across the skiff and it’s being towed away from shore. Both the skiff man and beach man are standing on the beach, helpless.

The skipper is embarrassed. Everybody’s laughing. All the seiners were blowing their horns. It looked like an absolute mess, our first set of the year.”

Dave Cochrane, interviewed by Robert Boyd

Read More »