A woman’s view of Inco

Mia Jensen The Sudbury Star
More from Mia Jensen The Sudbury Star

Published on: June 28, 2019 | Last Updated: June 28, 2019 10:01 PM EDT

In 1974, Inco started hiring women for the first time since the end of the Second World War. Cathy Mulroy, then 19, was the second woman in line for a job. Now, she’s written a book about her experiences.

Mulroy worked on the anode casting wheel in the copper refinery. Her job was to empty the molten metal arriving in hot cars from the smelter, into the furnace. It was hot, grimy work, but for Mulroy, the labour wasn’t the difficult part of her experience.

“Over the years, I was kind of a person who believed in people’s rights,” she says. “I was never quiet. So right off the bat, I started getting into trouble.”

Inco was a male-dominated company, and Mulroy says it was clear that many didn’t want women there. “I started getting grievances for silly things like taking a 15-minute coffee break five minutes too early. You know, just harassment, plain harassment.”

At the time, three women worked with the anodes, but Mulroy says they all worked different shifts and were never able to interact. Sometimes she’d be promoted or moved departments but would be sent back to the anodes after every lay off or cut back.

She also described the jokes and catcalling that followed female workers, as well a lunchroom covered in pictures of women from pornography magazines.

“A lot of the men just thought that was funny,” she says. “The other men who didn’t think that was funny sat there quiet. Even though they weren’t doing the thing, they weren’t doing anything about it.”

For Mulroy, the 1978-79 Inco strike changed everything.

Mulroy became involved with Wives Supporting the Strike as a liaison between the wives and the union.

“Meeting the wives was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says. “These women were homemakers and I watched them blossom into politically aware, motivated people, the same as myself, so I grew with them over that eight-and-a-half month strike.”

Over the 30 years Mulroy worked for Inco, she kept a record of all her experiences. Everything from diaries and calendars to grievances and newspaper clippings ended up in a giant bin. After three decades, she had three full bins of information.

So, she decided to write a book.

My View from the Blackened Rocks chronicles Mulroy’s years at Inco and her experiences as one of the first women to work there. She describes the experience of writing as emotional and cathartic.

“It’s like another life,” she says. “It’s like that happened to the other Cathy. It’s a real healing.”

Then she adds with a laugh: “I think everybody should write their memoir!”

Mulroy says her reputation as a troublemaker always preceded her when she worked for Inco. She hopes her book will help people better understand who she actually was.

She also says she wants people to know more about what those first decades were like for women at Inco, and the work that went that women put in to pave the way for the next generations in the mining industry.

“We have to learn to grow together as women, never mind any pettiness,” she says. “We have to be strong; we have to support each other. We’re the same. Each person should know and respect what each person does.

“This is what I went through and I’m really happy to share it with people. I really am.”

Despite the hardship, Mulroy says she has no regrets. “I can’t change the past, I can’t change my actions. I can look back and say I might’ve done some things that I could’ve changed, but it wouldn’t make me who I am today.”

My View from the Blackened Rocks is now in its final stages and is expected to be released early October. The book will be available for purchase on Amazon, and at Indigo and Barnes & Noble.


Twitter: @Mia_RJensen



Pioneer tells her story

Keith Dempsey For The Sudbury Star

Published on: October 3, 2019 | Last Updated: October 3, 2019 9:50 PM EDT

For more than 30 years, Cathy Mulroy worked for Inco and she kept a record of all her experiences – writing on paper towels, inside her cigarette package — all the while leaving notes and reminders wherever possible.

“I started writing everything down on anything I could get my hands on,” said Mulroy, now 65, and who was 19 when Inco hired her in 1974.

It was the first time Inco started hiring women since the end of the Second World War.

Mulroy worked on the anode-casting wheel in the copper refinery. Her job was to empty the molten metal arriving in hot cars from the smelter and into the furnace.

“Then I started carrying a little pad with me, writing everything down and I’d throw it in a box.”

When she retired, she had three bins full of notes and information. So, Mulroy decided to write a book — My View from the Blackened Rocks.

“I have so much stuff written that I could make a trilogy no problem,” Mulroy laughed. “I didn’t know I liked to write, but all of a sudden, I love writing.”

My View from the Blackened Rocks chronicles Mulroy’s years at Inco and her experiences as one of the first women to work there.

Mulroy described the process of putting together My View from the Blackened Rocks as being therapeutic and emotionally draining, all at the same time.

Cathy Mulroy was one of the first women to work at Inco in the 1970s, the first time the company hired women after the Second World War. Her book, to be released in the fall, details her experiences as a woman in the mining industry. JENNIFER PENNEY / JPG, SU

“You have to relive it over and over and over,” Mulroy said. “All of those things that happened to me, as you write it, it’s healthy, getting rid of all that crap that’s in your body, all the negativity.”

The book was originally three times the size it is now, as the published copy has been trimmed down to roughly 500 pages long.

“The hard part was taking some of the stories out,” Mulroy said. “Emotionally, well, it was pretty tricky, especially at the very end and you have the manuscript in your hand and you have to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. That I found very emotional, both sad, happy, angry, all of the above.”

But at the end of the day, she’s excited for her book to be released, her message and stories to be available to the public.

Mulroy will host a book launch at the Steelworkers’ Hall on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Mulroy said. “I’m over the blackened hills. I am so overwhelmed right now. It has taken off so quickly.”

The book’s cover was created by local painter Janet Kobelka – depicting a young woman sitting on rocks and looking out to the Inco Superstack.

“It is absolutely gorgeous,” Mulroy said. “I can’t express that enough. I just love it.”

My View from the Blackened Rocks is available for purchase on Amazon, and at Indigo and Barnes & Noble.

“I don’t care if I sell two books, I really don’t care,” Mulroy said. “As long as the books get there, the story gets out that this is what I went through when working at Inco, then I’ll be happy.”


Twitter: @keith_dempsey



Sudbury miner outlines what it was like to be one of the first women to work at INCO

Cathy Mulroy is publishing a book on her career

CBC News · Posted: Oct 06, 2019 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: October 6

In 1974, Sudbury’s Cathy Mulroy heard an ad on the radio saying INCO was getting ready to hire women.

An ad like that was unusual. The company had employed women during the war years but they were all laid off afterwards.

Mulroy was married at 16 and wanted out. She had no education, no skills or a job. Despite that, she applied and was hired.

“I started off on the wrong foot right away,” she said. “The first day, my feet were too small for the rubber-toed steel boots.”

She says the company offered to train her since she didn’t have any experience. She says a lot of the men working at the company weren’t happy about women showing up to work.

“I used to get phone calls saying I was taking away a man’s job,” she said. “I wanted to fit in but it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Despite other women being hired at the same time, Mulroy says it was difficult to spend time with them.

“They were on different shifts,” she said. “They would not let us work together. I think it was a control thing.”

Mulroy ended up working for the company for 30 years and she retired in 2004. Now, she’s written a memoir of her experience called “My View From the Blackened Rocks”.

Cathy Mulroy recently published a book about her time working at INCO, called My View From The Blackened Rocks. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

“I started writing things down on everything and anything,” she said. “Maybe it was my way of handling the stressful situation.”

After 30 years, she says she had three bins of information written down.

“This is my life [and] this is how I saw what it was like working there,” she said.



Trailblazer: One of the first women hired by Inco in the 1970s pens memoir

Cathy Mulroy was 19 when she started working for Sudbury miner 

Sudbury.com Oct 10, 2019 12:00 PM By: Heidi Ulrichsen

Cathy Mulroy was 19 years old and in a bad marriage in 1974 when she heard a television news report that would change her life.

She heard Inco would be hiring women in hourly-rate jobs.

This was ground breaking news indeed. Women had worked at Inco during the Second World War, but when the war ended, they were laid off. There even used to be laws against women working in the mining industry.

Keen to earn enough to support herself and her two kids and leave her marriage, Mulroy applied at Inco and was among a handful hired.

Retired from Inco since 2004, Mulroy outlines her 30-career with the company in her new self-published memoir, My View from the Blackened Rocks.

Mulroy started in anode casting, working with furnaces and molten metal. Standing 5-1, with tiny size four feet, she often couldn’t find work clothes and safety equipment that fit her small frame.

“There were no laws,” she said. “The men could talk to you any way they wanted, They could call you names. They could write graffiti on the walls. It didn’t matter. It was all acceptable behaviour.”

And then there was the danger associated with the job. Her coworker Sally Matthews — one of the few other women working at Inco at the time — was killed in an accident at the plant in 1980.

“She worked on the other shift, same job as I am,” said Mulroy. “I remember that day clearly. It was pretty sad. She had eight children.”

Mulroy herself was badly injured on the job in 1986. “I took a fall,” she said. “I pushed my spine in, landed on the hub of a truck. Somebody had left it there on the walkway. That sort of changed everything.”

She couldn’t return to hard labour, so Mulroy, who had married at age 16 and never graduated from high school, started taking evening classes at Cambrian College.

Eventually she began teaching health and safety courses to Inco’s workers, which she continued until her retirement in 2004.

Mulroy’s memoir also covers a historic period in Inco’s history — the nine-month-long Inco-Steelworkers strike.

While it wasn’t easy living on $30 a week in strike pay, Mulroy said she found a group of sisters in the strikers’ wives. They’re still friends to this day.

In 1984, Mulroy met her “wonderful” second husband, Merv McLaughlin. Between the two of them, they have five kids, and are also now grandparents.

They also helped to raise one of Merv’s nieces — at one point, there were six teenagers in their house.

While Mulroy didn’t always get respect from the men she worked with, she said that changed.

“It’s wonderful now,” she said. “There’s a maintenance party every year — about 1,500 men that go, and five women. The respect I have now from the men, you can’t ask for better.”

And she did have many great male coworkers. They include a man she calls her best friend, the late Bruce McKiegan, who was her Steelworkers union steward.

Mulroy said she was actually inspired to start writing down incidents that happened on the job after McKiegan wrote up her first grievance.

When she retired, she had several bins filled with written materials — dayplanners, calendars, and just notes scribbled on paper towels or cigarette packages.

“Looking back, it was a healing experience,” Mulroy said, adding this material is what became the basis of her memoir. “Throw it in a box, cover it.”

In sharing her story, Mulroy said she wants to encourage young women to enter the trades.

“I would really like to push how important the trades are,” she said.

“We are so short of tradespeople … You could be an electrician, you could be a plumber, you can be a carpenter, you can be a heavy duty equipment mechanic, industrial mechanic. The sky is the limit, and the pay is fantastic.”

Mulroy recently held a launch party for her book at the Steelworkers Hall.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, they cost $25, and are available through online retailers such as Amazon, or by contacting Mulroy at mulroysview@gmail.com or through her website at MulroysView.com.