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Margaret Bailey was the first woman and African American woman in the southeastern U.S. to complete the pipe fitter’s public apprenticeship program. Bailey spent 20 years as a certified pipe fitter in a Georgia paper mill before retiring due to a work-related injury. Bailey was hired at the Continental Forest Industry paper mill in Port Wentworth, GA in 1975, but it was only after 8,000 hours of hardcore training. She completed a 576-hour educational program that included high levels of math including geometry and trigonometry, chemistry, physics, welding, pneumatics, engineering and hydraulics.

What kept Bailey going was not only a desire to provide for her three children, but to show the doubting men on the job that she was up for the challenge. As she rose through the ranks, she received death threats, was physically kicked, verbally abused and passed over for a promotion.

She sued the mill and won the court case, but only on the condition that she would never work at the mill again.

Now a 63-year-old mother of four children, Margaret Bailey has worked as an accomplished writer. She became one of the first graduates of the Savannah Morning News Neighborhood Newsroom.

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