Anna Procaccini drives around the neighborhood in her 1972 Ford Ranger pickup, its door hand-painted with the name of her business: Anna’s Electric.
Procaccini, 58, started her own business in 1995, after 10 years working for the city followed by about nine years at home raising children.
The Oak Cliff native went to work as a trades helper for the City of Dallas in 1976, and she was the only woman in her department. It wasn’t easy.
“I was felt up and down on a daily basis,” she says.
There were guys who refused to work with her. Some literally pushed her around, and sometimes her male co-workers could be cruel.
“They put me up on a roof in summertime then took the ladder down and went to lunch,” she says. “It was hot up there — no shade, no water.”
Some guys kept calendars of nude women in their offices and in the locker room. There were no policies or laws against such offenses at the time.
“I couldn’t get a credit card without my husband’s signature, and my mother couldn’t get birth control without my dad’s written consent,” she says.
But she says she never let gender discrimination or sexual harassment get her down. Instead, she used her difference as an advantage.
She laughs recalling the time she found a calendar of half-naked men and hung it on her own locker. A co-worker tore it down and ripped it to shreds.
Procaccini says she never complained, and she never lost her temper.
The advantage women have over men, she says, is a certain grace.
“You have to make yourself strong enough and smart enough to compete,” she says.
Renovating old houses in Oak Cliff was a side business for Procaccini’s parents — her dad also ran a tailor shop out of their Kessler Park home. Helping out in their real estate business is how young Anna found she had a fascination for electricity.
“I absolutely love electrical work,” she says. “It is so damn dangerous.”
Some girls love bad boys; Procaccini says she has always had a thing for potentially deadly currents.
Jimmy Gann, who had served in the military with Procaccini’s dad, hired her at the city to fulfill equal opportunity employment requirements. Eventually, she found a mentor at the city, Johnny Juarez, and became a master electrician.
She quit to care for her first child, and once the youngest was in school, she decided to start her own business, specializing in electrical services to the old homes and buildings in Oak Cliff.
Nowadays, Procaccini is still the only woman on the job, only now she is the boss. She and her husband, Chester, live near Winnetka Heights and have three grown sons. Her whole work crew is composed of men, some of whom she recruited from Oak Cliff high schools and have been with the company for years. The crew also includes her husband and one of her sons. It’s not that she wouldn’t hire a woman, but there still aren’t many female electricians, she says.
Electrical work can be physically demanding. It requires crawling into tight spaces, climbing ladders and carrying heavy equipment. Procaccini says she can’t always do those things, as she has to bid jobs and take care of other administrative duties in the office. But she’s often out there with the guys.
“I can’t be on every job all the time,” she says. “I’m so fortunate to have this crew of men.”