Celebrating Women: Ethelmae Humphreys

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When you look back into Joplin’s past, you learn about mining camp resident John C. Cox or the city’s namesake – Harris Joplin.

But as industry developed beyond lead and zinc, a young, single woman took on the leading role at what would become one of *the* longtime businesses – Tamko.
Gretchen Bolander takes us back to Ethelmae Humphreys start more than 70 years ago.

“Didn’t think I wanted to be in the roofing business, thought I wanted to be a leave home and go pursue others interests.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO.
Ethelmae Humphreys graduated from KU with a liberal arts degree, her plans for the future now focusing in Joplin and TAMKO.

That included starting the work day with a shorthand class at Joplin Junior College.
“I would walk from the school to the plant on high Street.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO
Where there was more to learn.
“The current business staff taught me to keep a sales register and uh do the payroll.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO 
Her father E.L. Craig was suffering from poor health, prompting a lengthy trip to Florida.
So he named Ethelmae the executive vice president, staying in touch through the mail.
“I wrote a lot of letters and uh, had i known an iphone was in my future i would have loved that.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO

It was the 1950s, and it wasn’t exactly common to have a single woman in her 20s in charge.
“I was doing what i was supposed to do and um, to look on it and say you’re in a leadership role, you’re a woman that’s very unusual it’s a reflection not what i understood at the time.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO
She says she got a lot of support in that role – and that for her gender wasn’t an issue.
“I’d always been told I could do anything I decided I wanted to do. People were so really nice to me.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO
As her role at TAMKO grew, so would her personal life.
Ethelmae met and married Jay Humphreys.
Initially an accounting machine salesman, he joined her at TAMKO during her first pregnancy.
“My parents said, wouldnt’ Jay like to join the business and help you – it’s going to be difficult being pregnant and working every day.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO
She would continue working full time until her second pregnancy.

“At that point I stayed home and take care of the children and read reports and went to meetings.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO
A third child would follow – keeping her focus at home into the 1980s.
“When Jay had his first heart attack I came back that was 1985 and take on the HR role because he needed somebody at that point.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO
Her role would change – but not her dedication.

“I must feel about this company as I would had I a sibling because I feel as though I needed to take care of it.” said Ethelmae Humphreys, TAMKO

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