When I reached out to Melanie Aldrich to arrange a time to chat, she responded, “I’ll be home all day with a sick two year old. Call anytime.” As a new mother, the thought of meeting another female plumber with kids intrigued me. I knew very little about Melanie Aldrich before our first conversation. The fact that Melanie is a female Master Plumber was the extent of my knowledge. After our conversation, I realized I had just communicated with one of the most unique individuals in the country.
Melanie Aldrich did not grow up saying, “I want to be a plumber when I grow up.” In fact, circumstances pushed her towards the trades. At the time she turned to plumbing as a trade, she was a single mother. Having grown up in Brooklyn, Melanie was no stranger to hard work and doing what it took to provide for her family. The trades, for Melanie, served as a way for her to get out of the projects. Twenty five years ago she moved her family to Scranton, Pennsylvania where she obtained her Master Plumber’s License. She was beaming with pride when she shared with me that she was the first female Master Plumber in Scranton.
Nine years ago, Melanie picked up and moved her family to Rhode Island. She started a new life with a new husband and a new business. Melanie Aldrich and Son Plumbing provides residential, commercial and industrial plumbing services all across the great state of Rhode Island. In addition to running a plumbing company, she’s taught at New England Tech and is the President of the Rhode Island Plumbing and Mechanical Inspectors Association.
Having worked in the plumbing industry for decades, I asked Melanie how the trades have changed over the past few decades. She shared that she could only speak to her experience. When she started in the ’80s it was not easy being a girly girl in a manly man’s trade. How did Melanie survive? She worked hard and told the dirtiest jokes. She allowed her workmanship to speak for her and became one of the guys. She remarked, “It felt great to be me.” After decades of hard work she finally feels respected.
Currently, Melanie lives on Rhode Island with her husband and two young children. Melanie is also a grandmother! She beamed with love when speaking about her “awesome husband.” After thirteen years together she feels fortunate that her spouse helps to make their lives easy. While some men might feel threatened by a trades savvy wife, her husband remains supportive and is not the jealous type, which is helpful when you work in a male dominated industry.
Melanie offers this advice to any women looking to pursue a career in trades, “Just do it and know that you can.” Despite obstacles and hardships, Melanie has found a happy life for herself and her family in the trades. She’s working towards becoming a Licensed Plumbing Inspector and loves a new challenge. Melanie is the quintessence of a successful woman in the trades.