Maria Dunn. This song is the story of Lillian Wasylynchuk. Wasylynchuk died at 71 after a seven-year battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Pulmonary fibrosis is scarring of the lung tissue that makes it progressively more difficult to breath. There are several causes of pulmonary fibrosis, including inhalation of various dusts and spores Wasylynchuk workers at Edmonton’s GWG clothing factory for seven years and believed her lung disease was caused by exposure to demin dust.
I was unable to find a video to go with this post but you can listen to Dunn perform the song here. The lyrics make an important point about the gendered nature of occupational injury: If Waslynchuk had been a (male) coal miner, it is likely she would have received compensation and maybe even some protection. As a women in a so-called safe occupation, her occupational injuries are much less likely to be accepted as such.
Where I come from, we work hard, we don’t make a fuss
So I can’t be afraid of a bit of blue dust
When my family needs me to pay the bills
Maybe I’m not so ill
I see now from the photos, some women wear masks
And I can’t help but wish that I’d done more than ask
But ours were the days when you did what you’re told
You could only be so bold
If I could speak to my younger self
I’d say: “never risk your precious health
And don’t assume that they’ve thought of you
In your air of denim blue”
Now if I had toiled in a coal mine
Where the earth itself compresses your time
Then maybe I’d think of lung disease
But a clothing factory?
Our fingers, our air, tainted blue
And someone joked that our blood must be too
But when the dust settled, I’m sad to say
It took my breath away
-- Bob Barnetson