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County's first female to tote mail recalls rough start in 1968

'Gutsy girl' says some co-workers were hostile to her

Mail carriers have a tough job, contending daily with vicious dogs, harsh weather and impolite motorists. But Barrie Frankland faced some extra challenges when she started in 1968.

She was a maverick, the first female letter carrier in Salt Lake County.

Frankland, 57, retired Friday after more than 32 years with the Postal Service. She was honored Friday morning by her colleagues at the Postal Service's Custer Street annex, near 1750 South and 2500 West.

"This is the true American feminist," Tom McPartland, president of branch 111 of the Association of Letter Carriers, said. He said that when Frankland started working in the late 1960s, the term "day care" was unknown. "She's put up with so much . . . she is special."

As a single mother, she had three small boys when she started her career, the youngest just 5 months old. She didn't have any other choice but to work to pay her bills.

"It was a hard job. . . . The first six months were the worst," Frankland said about delivering mail in the East Mill Creek area during the harsh winter in 1968-69. Being just 5 feet tall posed some special challenges, too.

"Walking in butt-high snow, it was so exhausting," she said.

She spent the next four years working between the Sugar House and Northwest stations. Then in 1981 she went to work at the Main Office and has been there since. Born in California and raised in Salt Lake City, she went to West High School.

Frankland received a mixed reaction from the men she worked with.

Some were very hostile, taking the attitude that it was a man's job. Some were very supportive and helpful, though.

She met her future husband, John, when she went out to help him on his route. (That was another first as they became Salt Lake's first married letter carrier couple.)

It took many years for people to get used to the idea of women in the work force as letter carriers. In fact, it was 10 years later before the second "career" woman letter carrier came along in Salt Lake. Other women were hired, but until 1978, none except Frankland stayed with it.

Today, 25 percent of all letter carriers nationally are women, 20 percent in Utah.

In 1975 Frankland was on the advisory board for Postal Life Magazine for a year. While she was still in Sugar House she was asked to be a shop steward.

She had to take a few years off being the steward so she could attend school functions. But when her three boys finished high school, she resumed her position as shop steward, a position she held until retirement. She is also a Branch 111 trustee and secretary of the Utah Association of Letter Carriers.

She was chosen to be an employee involvement facilitator for the union in 1987. She held that position for three years. She then went back to her position as a letter carrier at the Main Office. In 1998, she received a letter carrier of the year award for Salt Lake.

It took 20 years of service before she got what she considers one of the premier mail delivery jobs — to the businesses in the Pioneer Road area.

She had one vehicle accident more than 30 years ago, but has now gone 1 million work miles and 30 years without an accident — a rarity in a job where travel is the mainstay.

Her mother, Lillian Barrett, describes her as a "gutsy girl" who didn't have a choice but to be a working mother.

"I was very surprised," she said, when he daughter became a letter carrier.

"It's not the job I would have picked, but it has been satisfying," Frankland said.

She now plans to do lots of golfing, gardening and traveling. Frankland would also like a manicure, something that's pointless to have as an active letter carrier.

She's also an Elvis Presley fan, and a colleague dressed up as Elvis at her retirement party.