Proud to be in the 'Company of Women'Sandy Magsamen was...


January 22, 1995|By Laura Lippman

Proud to be in the 'Company of Women'

Sandy Magsamen was running a company of women, so her inclusion in the "Company of Women" made a certain sense.

The 35-year-old Glen Arm artist, whose distinctive tiles are sold through upscale stores and catalogs, is one of three Maryland entrepreneurs whose work appears in the "Company of Women" catalog.

"Philosophically, it was a good fit," Ms. Magsamen says of her relationship with the Nyack, N.Y.-based company, which diverts part of its proceeds to a shelter in its area.

It also was a good fit aesthetically.

Ms. Magsamen's work is known for its sweetly angular women and men, often portrayed in loving embraces. The Company of Women chose her 8-by-8-inch "Garden Guardian Angel" tile, which sells for $42, for the catalog.

Other items in the catalog include "Girls Can Do Anything" T-shirts, a pocket siren and a welcome mat proclaiming: "This Home is Protected by a Goddess."

Ms. Magsamen was first approached three years ago by Company of Women president and CEO Melinda L. Little. Both women were overseeing growing businesses: Ms. Magsamen's Table Tiles had grown from an after-hours sideline to a thriving concern; Company of Women, after starting in 1987 with a mailing of 25,000 catalogs, was shipping 500,000 catalogs and had sales of nearly $1 million.

Now Ms. Magsamen, whose wares can be seen locally at Nouveau, Tomlinson and the Zyzyx shop in the Festival at Woodholme, has as many orders as she can fill.

And Company of Women, whose circulation and sales have continued to climb, can take pride in helping the Rockland Family Shelter shelter hundreds of women and children.

However, Table Tiles' status as a company of women has changed. There is now one man on the eight-person staff. If only JoAnn Gordon had known what a fireman did on the railroad, her life might have turned out differently.

As it is, her ignorance put her on a path that would eventually make her the first female train master on Maryland's MARC railway.

As a train master on MARC's Brunswick line, Ms. Gordon, 47, is responsible for the railway's daily operation -- making the trains run on time and monitoring the work of contractors hired by the state.

Life on the rails has taken Ms. Gordon from Jersey City to St. Louis and finally to Baltimore. If she knew more about rail vocabulary at the start -- if she'd known, for example, that a fireman was responsible for keeping a train's fire going -- she probably would have chosen a different profession.

"I thought the position I was originally hiring out for was a fire inspector," recalls Ms. Gordon, who was working as a respiratory therapist when she saw the ad for a job with New Jersey Transit.

But maybe, Ms. Gordon acknowledges, she was meant to work on the rails. Her grandfather, after all, was a boilerman for the Penn Central Railroad.

After three weeks of training as a fireman, she was hooked. "I think I liked the challenge of it," she says. "It was so different, like nothing I had ever thought about doing before."

And so an engineer was born -- the first female locomotive engineer for New Jersey Transit.

Which makes Ms. Gordon, who lives in Owings Mills, something of a trailblazer when it comes to women working on the railroad. Not bad, considering she was so certain she'd made a mistake that she kept looking for other work during that first three-week training session.

"It's been an interesting career," she says.

Chris Kaltenbach

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