Torch in the Dark


Hadiyah Joan Carlyle’s memoir, Torch in the Dark tells the moving story of how she, as a single mother, haunted by painful memories of her own traumatic childhood, pioneered as one of the first women since World War II to enter the trades as a union welder.

Beginning in a Jewish immigrant neighborhood in New Jersey, Hadiyah’s story moves through San Francisco’s colorful Haight-Ashbury in the sixties to arrive at last at Fairhaven Shipyard in Bellingham, Washington. For Hadiyah, welding became both a path to self-reliance and economic survival and a metaphor for healing from early childhood trauma.

Torch in the Dark by Hadiyah Joan Carlyle
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Hadiyah was passionate in her desire to learn to weld, to feel the power of the torch, to see the fire, to dispel the darkness. The story of Hadiyah’s journey to healing serves as an inspiration for anyone struggling with issues of abuse and oppression. In addition, the book offers readers an insightful perspective on the culture of the ’60s and ’70s.

Praise for Torch in the Dark:
“Hadiyah pulls her life together in a Bellingham shipyard using a welding rod and a tough as nails attitude …  No one has even come close to the depth and detail of the sixties that Carlyle reaches.” Jack Remick, author of The Deification and Blood

 “In prose as hot as her welding torch, Hadiyah Carlyle transports the reader to a time early in the women’s movement that must never be forgotten. As one of the first female welders in the West Coast shipyards, Carlyle paved the way for women working in the trades today. You will applaud her strength in sharing this powerful story.”
— Arleen Williams, author of The Thirty-Ninth Victim.




New York. East Village. 1964.

We sit in a dark corner of Steve’s coffee shop on E.10th Street.

“Call her,” Caty says.

“Call her,” Nancy says.

“Go to Portland. She’ll help you,” Caty says.

Portland, Oregon. It’s far away.

Far away from the Lower East Side.

“You can always come back. Go. Renee studied with Bruno Bettelheim. She’ll know what to do. We all lived with her at one time or another, Nancy, Ed, Steve, and me. Go.”

I call Renee.

“Tom will pick you up.”

Will she really help me?

Will she save me from another mental hospital?

My German psychiatrist wants me to go to Hillsdale Hospital.

I won’t survive.

Portland. I’m going to Portland.

I pack up my stuff, my knit suits.

I quit my job.

Take my savings, about $2,000. I take it with me in traveler’s checks.

In Portland, Tom picks me up.

He is tall, has a beard, wears wire rim glasses.

Tom shakes my hand and says, “How was the trip?”

We get in the truck and drive.

It’s too quiet.

He stops in front of a big Victorian wooden house. He carries my bags. Puts them down in the entrance. We walk down a long dark hallway. He opens the door. The light comes in, bright lights. I see light from the wood stove. We are in a big kitchen.

Renee. I see her. She’s sitting on a mattress on the floor plucking on an autoharp. Caty told me Renee was fifty-four; Tom is about my age, thirty years younger than her. I see long strands of stringy graying hair. She’s in a muumuu dress, sitting cross-legged. Her skirt is above her knees. No underpants. I can see everything. I just stare. She doesn’t say a word to me. No hello, no how was your trip. She doesn’t even look at me, just sits there on the mattress on the kitchen floor, next to the wood stove, playing an autoharp, playing “Oh Freedom. Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave.”

I stand there. Pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. Kitchen crammed with coats, cups, bowls, books, bed clothes, silk throws, art supplies, and stuff. Autoharps, there are autoharps all around. On the wall, on the bed, on the chairs.

“Don’t just stand there like a fool, take your coat off,” Renee shreiks. She keeps strumming away. She stops to sip from a teacup by her side.

“What are you staring at?” she shouts. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

I start to tell her that Caty and Nancy said I should come… but I don’t get it out.

“Oh, you’re listening to Caty, are you? Well, she went running off with Steve. So what are you going to do?”

What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?  I thought she would tell me.


Hadiyah Joan Carlyle grew up in a Jewish immigrant neighborhood in New Jersey, became active in the Civil Rights movement of the sixties and migrated to San Francisco’s colorful Haight-Ashbury to be part of the counter-culture there. In the seventies, she was the first and only female shipyard welder in Bellingham, Washington, north of Seattle.

In the eighties, Hadiyah returned to the East Coast to earn her MSW at Rutgers University. In 2003, she completed the certificate program in Memoir Writing through the University of Washington Extension. She is an active member of Seattle’s thriving community of writers.

Hadiyah’s poems and essay have been published in The Journey of Healing: Wisdom from Survivors of Sexual Abuse, a Literary Anthology; Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community by Rachel Lev and Escaping the Yellow Wallpaper by Elayne Clift.

Today Hadiyah lives in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood close to her son, Washington State 36th District Legislator Reuven Carlyle, his wife Dr. Wendy Carlyle and their four children. Activist, hiker, devoted grandmother, Hadiyah delights in the wild beauty of the Northwest while remaining connected to her gritty urban East Coast roots. Though welding is no longer a part of her life, she continues to carry the torch for the empowerment of the oppressed.

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