25 February 2021, 23:00:00
Times of Malta
Perhaps not a direct LGBTQ history piece but a transgression of long standing gender-roles took place during the wartime in Malta: Women led the way in construction!
In Bugeja's memoir, he recounts how his widow grandmother had no pension or social benefits to fall onto and therefore had to find ways to make an income. Work was irregular, sometimes periodical, and sometimes seasonal.
"Occassionally, she enrolled with other village women to work in the surrounding fields, digging, hoeing, sowing, picking, reaping, trashing work that demanded physical exertion and stamina...the hardest work of all was when, together with other women, she worked for the building contractors. Such workers were called 'BALLATA'. The word signified their work. They carried their own tool, wide flat-surface wooden mallets and very low stools to sit on. With the rhythmic sounds of their mallets, they flattened and smoothed the uneven potsherd on roofs of new houses. It was a backbreaking day: they toiled in the heat of the summer sun from morning until sunset for a pittance. These hired women made their own entertainment singing songs of praise or ballads of old telling stories of unfortunate girls....Grandmother never complained of hard work, never lost a call for work although sometimes these women were 'ordered' at short notice. She was a hardy woman, seasoned to hard work which contrasted well with her gentle and kind nature."
Bugeja, J. (2010). Reminiscences of Childhood in Floriana - Malta in Peace and War 1930 - 1950. Bonnici Press: Valletta