Female Bricklayer Defied Doubters To Build Baltimore Landmarks

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More than four decades working as a bricklayer gave Barbara Moore calloused, aching hands — and these biceps.

When Barbara Moore started working as a bricklayer in 1973, the 21-year-old was the only woman in Baltimore doing the job.

It wasn't the first job she'd tried, but a desk job, she says, just wasn't the right fit. "Right out of high school I worked in a[n] office, but a couple hours behind a desk and I was falling asleep," Moore tells her daughter, Olivia Fite, on a visit to StoryCorps in Baltimore. "So I became a bricklayer."

"It was kind of rough at first 'cause, you know, a lot of the older guys didn't think I should be there and I was taking a job from a man," Moore says. "But I believed that I could do that job."

And she was right. Moore, 62, recently retired, but during more than 40 years on the job she laid the masonry for many Baltimore landmarks — including Camden Yards, where the Orioles play, and M&T Bank Stadium, home to the Ravens.

Moore recalls working with one man, a World War II veteran.

"He was, you know, really an old-school guy, but he was willing to work with me when a lot of other people did not want me as their partner," she says. "And when he passed away, his daughter called me and said that he wanted to leave me his tools. ... If you're getting tools from the bricklayers that have gone before you, that would be a sign of respect."

Fite says that she remembers massaging her mother's calloused hands as a child, and, later, painting her fingernails — "not that a manicure lasted very long," Moore replies.

"I noticed that throughout my life, people always come up to me on the street and say, 'Are you Barbara Moore's daughter?' There's a lot of people in this town that have a great respect for you, and you've earned that," Fite tells her mother. "How would you like to be remembered?

"The only thing that's important to me, my dear, is that you remember me," Moore says.

"But you've had your hands in so many things that will last for so much longer than either one of us," Fite says.

"I know; I don't care about that," Moore says. "Whatever I did ... was always something that I wanted to do for you."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.

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