Lindsay Lockwood was drilling the last screw to anchor a second-story bathroom cabinet into what she thought was a stud. Turns out, it was a water pipe.
“You could hear the water spraying the wall,” Lindsay says, acutely aware of all the potential problems she faced if she didn’t do something fast. “Once water is in drywall or wood, you get mold, which is toxic. There are so many problems, especially here in this weather where things don’t just dry out.”
Rather than panic, Lindsay turned to the Handy Women Northwest Facebook group for help.
“The amount of knowledge in water repair has been amazing,” Lindsay says. “Thanks to advice that day—which included, ‘Get a fan.’ ‘Get your Shop-Vac.’—I was able to get everything dry quickly instead of having to tear everything out.”
Handy Women is the brainchild of New Yorker Geraldine Anello, who launched the group in October 2019 after reading a comment on social media questioning why there wasn’t anything like it.
“When I saw that post, I thought, ‘Why isn’t there one?’” Geraldine says. “I had been a community builder for eight years with other groups. I knew I was the right person to do this and do it for the long run. I came up with the logo and launched it that same day.”
Today, the main Handy Women group numbers about 414,000 members. There are eight U.S. regional groups, including Handy Women Northwest, which launched in June 2021. It numbers 3,300 members, growing 21% in just the first two months of 2023.
Geraldine’s motivation in starting the group was to inspire women and help them understand their potential. She added local chapters to help people who want to hire a handywoman find them nearby.
“There is an actual need of handywomen in the community,” Geraldine says. “Women hiring women feels more safe and secure.”
While Handy Women is designed to celebrate women, Geraldine is firm about prohibiting negative comments about men. It’s just one of the rules a team of moderators ensures members adhere to. Geraldine also prohibits advertising or promotion of services or merchandise.
“We are very strict to make sure it stays encouraging,” she says. “It’s positive and inspiring. That’s why people love this community.”
The group also includes a Handy Women boutique, which may sound like a good excuse for shopping. Geraldine says it serves a practical purpose.
“One of the big issues handywomen complain about is they go to Home Depot and Lowe’s and ask for something specific, and a lot of time the vendor will doubt them. They’ll ask, ‘Did you measure?’ then doubt the conclusion. Hopefully by wearing a hoodie or shirt that says Handy Women or has a joke about being a handywoman, the person will understand that this is someone who knows what they are doing.”
Most members are beginners. A few are professionals, including some who turned pro after realizing the extent of their expertise from their interactions with the group.
Lindsay, who lives in Lake Tapps—a community south of Seattle and east of Tacoma—considers herself fairly experienced, having started building things with her father at age 10. She is now on her third home remodel with her husband, Rob.
Lindsay discovered Handy Women Northwest after coming across problems in her current remodel and turning to the internet for help.
“Everybody has different ideas on how to troubleshoot different problems,” she says. “First, I had a bolt stuck on a kitchen faucet. It was difficult to troubleshoot. Everybody had ideas. ‘Try this, try that.’ Then someone pointed me in the direction of a specialized tool just for that problem that I didn’t even know existed.”
Sandra Atwood also considers herself an experienced DIYer, but turns to Handy Women for encouragement, feedback and occasional technical help.
“It’s a really good resource,” she says. “Just seeing a post of another woman doing something similar to what I am doing and knowing it is possible to do it yourself is reassuring.”
She recently demolished and replaced the roof on her cottage in McMinnville, Oregon. It was part of a complete remodel she is about halfway through. She is looking to Handy Women now for an upcoming bathroom tiling project.
“Some of the posts are really detailed with the processes, the process photos,” Sandra says. “It’s just super helpful. Whenever I am looking at posts on Handy Women, I’ll screenshot the posts and I have a folder on my phone where I’ll save everything. I’ll reference back to it later.”
For Redmond, Oregon, homeowner Trina Williams, Handy Women is the place to look for ideas and sometimes a bit of courage.
“I can do even some of the projects I am intimidated to do,” Trina says. “I am not a fan of electrical projects. I try to steer clear of them. But getting ideas from the group helps me feel confident. I have an older home, and older homes have a lot of funky things.”
She says she searches the Handy Women page if there is something she wants to do.
“There are a lot of things out there that leave out details,” Trina says. “That’s why I appreciate this group. It definitely helps with details. Inspiration is also part of why I watch what goes on. I’ll see a post and think, ‘Man, I need to do that.’”