Finding Rosies in West Virginia

rosiesatwork

I’m always on the lookout for Rosies, and this article comes from West Virginia, featuring  Dot May (read below).

For women working on the home front during World War II it was more about getting a good job than it was about being patriotic… we were coming out of the Great Depression, and the men had gone to war.  Most of the women who went to work for the “war effort” had been working all along.  The war just offered opportunities for better jobs.

Shepherdstown’s own ‘Rosie’ remembers wartime effort

August 1, 2016
By Emily Daniels (edaniels@journal-news.netJournal News

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Dorothy “Dot” May, 94, says back in the days of World War II, helping with the war effort on the homefront was just something that many people did without talking too much about it. Now, she recognizes the fact that she served as a “Rosie the Riveter” and is proud to have contributed to the cause.

Although “Rosie” has become a national icon and is a term and image with which many people are familiar, May is one of the remaining women whom the image actually represents.  CONTINUE READING–>

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Rosie the Riveter at Glendale Arizona Pub

The only time I’ve ever found myself wanting to be in Glendale Arizona (not offense to the fine folks of Arizona, but it’s a bit too hot for me during most of the summer) is NOW …  well June 16-18 or June 23-24 to catch a performance of “After Hours at Rosie’s Pub” at the Brelby Theater Company.
11942216_10101188231491638_1988549270284709667_o-689x1024 Written by the Brelby Company Women (Shelby Maticic, Carolyn McBurney, Megan O’Connor, Mia Passarella, Melody Chrispen, Jessie Tully & April Rideout), “After Hours at Rosie’s Pub” features Rosie as a bar keep.  From the theater website:

After the lights have dimmed, and the early crowd has left the scene, Rosie’s Pub is frequented by a medley of female revolutionaries from throughout history. As they take the stage for an unconventional open mic night, they tell their stories through song, poetry, and narratives. Their individual histories weave together, and allow them to pose questions about today’s world. Its history like you’ve never heard it before, and these women have a lot to say.

Performance Dates: June 16-18, 23-24 @ 7:30 pm, June 18-19, 25 @ 2 pm

It sounds like a not only a fun show, but a good intro to a lot of historical woman.

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And there’s even more Rosies!

Rosie the Riveters at the Willow Run Bomber Plant

Rosie the Riveters at the Willow Run Bomber Plant, Ypsilanti Michigan 1942

October 24, 201-5-2,096 women and girls came together dressed as Rosie the Riveters to raise awareness for the Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant campaign in Ypsilanti Michigan.  They came from sixteen states, some from Canada, and there were even 44 “real Rosies” from the WWII era.  AND they blew the lid off the record set in September  at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

About the Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant Campaign

The goal of the campaign “….is to mobilize the resources needed to preserve and renovate roughly 144,000 square feet of the 5 million square foot former Willow Run Bomber Plant, to eventually become the new home of the Yankee Air Museum.

The Yankee Air Museum, based on the eastern edge of Willow Run Airport since 1981, houses aviation- and history-related exhibits and programs, and preserves and maintains a small fleet of WWII-era flyable aircraft, including the majestic Yankee Lady B-17. Yankee has a collection of static aircraft on display, and hosts the popular Thunder Over Michigan Air Show every August.”

Read more about the campaign at the website–>

The Willow Run Bomber Plant began production in 1941, first to build component parts, then–with the help of many women (the original Rosie the Riveters) they manufactured the B-24 Liberator.

Note:  the above photo comes from the Library of Congress’ collection ( Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C])

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Rosie the Riveter Record

Here’s one place to find a whole lotta Rosies!

d9b208614500b6f80739755fd29fad52_LCongratulations to the folks at the Rosie the Riveter Trust for smashing the Guinness Record for most people dressed up as Rosie the Riveter in one place!  Over 1,000 Rosies gathered at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

The Rosie the Riveter Trust’s mission is “….to help preserve the historic resources of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, implement its programs, and teach the story of the Home Front. The Trust partners with government, business, labor, academia, and individuals to support: visitor services; research and interpretation of the history of the Home Front; preservation of park sites; and establishment of links to other Home Front sites across the country.”  Check out their website for up-to-date information on events and activities, and if you’re in the Bay Area be sure to stop by.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Just an employee doing her job

b2fdc188eed5f3e9094b3eb726881508Helen Filak was one of the many Rosie the Riveters who worked in factories during World War II. Just out of high school, she worked as a welder at American Bridge in Pittsburgh for $1.20 an hour in 1943.

“We were told to go to dock so-and-so, and that’s where we worked,” she said. “You would sit on the ground there and weld ridge after ridge. You had a certain section you had to do, and I would weld my share.” [Filak said]

Filak hadn’t been aboard a combat ship since the war, and her job ended…  but she had the opportunity to tour the LST 325  World War II-era ship during its visit to  Pittsburgh’s North Shore near the World War II monument and Heinz Field.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/9024342-74/filak-war-build#ixzz3lAoeH6qY

 

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Holy Act of Congress Batman! Equal Pay for Women

batgirlWhen I was giggly six-year-old towhead living in San Diego, I didn’t just love Batgirl, I wanted to BE Batgirl.

My friends and I would watch the Batman t.v. show–already in reruns–after school.  We’d wear make-shift capes made from towels pinned around our necks with clothespins and we’d scramble in and out of the canyons behind our houses or ride our bikes (they were probably Big Wheels or tricycles) through the neighborhood solving imaginary crimes.

Tony Pellegrino was Batman (it should be noted that he is now a police officer) and Timmy, whose last name I don’t remember, was younger and smaller, so he played Robin.

As the only girl, I was Batgirl.

The actor who played Batgirl in that campy television series, Yvonne Craig, passed away yesterday and when I saw a post about it on Facebook, the first thing that came to mind was my memory of those times playing with Tony and Timmy and believing that anything was possible.

Was Batgirl a symbol of female power?  I don’t know–she was certainly captured a lot more often than Batman…  and why wasn’t she named Batwoman?  At age six I didn’t care.  To my child self, Batgirl wore a pretty, shiny purple cape, ran around with a couple of boys fighting crime, and rode her own motorcycle. Batgirl was smart and stronger than most of the other women on television….  she may not have been a superhero in real life, but she did advocate for equal pay for women.  My adult self appreciates that:

 

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42 Years of Title IX : Where are we now?

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

~ Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

When Title IX became law I was only 8 and I though I recall hearing about it, I didn’t really understand it. I heard about a girl who wanted to play baseball, and another who wanted to join the football team, and somehow this was Title IX related. Even now when people think about Title IX they mostly think about how this legislation impacted sports programs, but it’s about more than sports.

By the time I entered junior high school a couple of years later, Title IX meant co-ed gym class (at least that’s why I assumed gym classes became co-ed).  It also meant that the school was required to offer Shop class to girls as well as boys (and offer Home Ec  to boys as well as girls).  Of course in practice that wasn’t the case which I found out when I signed up for Shop; I already knew how to cook.

“All the girls take Home Ec,” my counselor said.

I tried to argue, “But I learned that stuff in Girl Scouts already,” I said.

“You’d be the only girl in the class,” he warned, not knowing that when I was younger I’d been the only girl my age in my neighborhood and I’d scrambled in and out of San Diego canyons chasing imaginary bank robbers, played with Tonka Trucks, and rode my bicycle with a pack of boys all over the neighborhood. Being the only girl would not have been a problem. In fact, it sounded like fun.  Power tools and making things out of wood and metal sounded fun.

But I caved and in 7th grade I learned to make a jello salad, and a wrap-around skirt. Two not-so-usefull skills.

I never learned how to saw or weld or how to tune up my car … though there was a brief time when a 1957 Volkswagen sat in our garage.  My dad bought it for a family project, but instead it collected dust in the garage. (There’s gotta be a metaphor for our family in there somewhere.)

So I don’t know where we are 42 years later.  We’ve made some progress I suppose, but still, there is much progress to be made.  Women may have better access to sports programs in school, but women’s professional sports are still perceived as “less than” and girls don’t sign up for today’s equivalent of Shop class at the same rate as boys.  There is still a wage gap and women AND men are tied to rigid notions of gender roles for the most part.

Maybe we never understand  history as it’s happening to us, but as I explore this project, as I SEARCH FOR ROSIE today I can’t help but wonder what my generation has done with the ball that was handed to us.

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The Rosie the Riveter Strategy Today

The media keeps telling us that skilled workers are hard to find so it must be true. In this article, “Can’t find skilled workers? Try this American strategy from World War II” operations strategist Rebecca Morgan suggest that corporations implement a Rosie the Riveter Strategy for finding workers:

Manufacturers fret about a skills shortage and the loss of powerful knowledge as baby boomers retire. Instead of fretting, I suggest looking back to the beginning of World War II as an easily available and proven response to both concerns.

At the beginning of WWII, millions of American men left jobs in manufacturing to fight the war. Those departures happened as the need for manufacturing to build war materials was skyrocketing.

American industry did a great job of bringing women in from homemaker duties and developing “Rosie the Riveter,” a productive manufacturing worker. How?
CONTINUE READING –>

While I love the idea of getting more women working in manufacturing jobs (or any jobs) Morgan fails to recognize some of the key components of that strategy that are not available to American Industry today.

First, the Office of War Information (OWI) which promoted the war effort from 1942 to 1945  ran an unrelenting well-coordinated PR campaign to disseminate information about the war consistently.  The OWI produced radio programs and films, distributed magazine publishing guides with story ideas and top quality photos, and printed up those recruitment posters we all love.

Even prior to the US entry into World War II the National Youth Administration, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, fostered employment for  young men and women and brought a lot of new workers to the trades.  While production levels had not yet ramped up for the war effort, there was increasing need for skilled workers just prior to WWII because of WPA projects like the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 which provided government funding for shipyards and for shipbuilding contracts to improve our maritime capabilities. And American Industry was producing war related products (including ships) for the British.

Once war was declared, many factories converted to provide wartime products.  For example, Ford stopped manufacturing automobiles and began manufacturing armored vehicles for the military. In fact, for a couple of years new cars were banned by the War Production Board, the government agency tasked with managing wartime production of goods.  Other factory conversions included a sparkplug factory that switched to producing machine guns, a stove manufacturer that began making lifeboats, a merry-go-round factory made gun mounts; a toy company made compasses; a corset manufacturer produced grenade belts; and a pinball machine plant began to make armor-piercing shells.****

The government also allocated funds for childcare centers between 1943 and 1946 through the Lanham Act, figuring if women were going to work outside the home they may need help with the important job of raising children (the children are our future, right?).

From a Congressional Research Report, Child Care: The Federal Role During World War II: “During World War II, the federal government supported a nationwide program of child care centers, intended to boost war production by freeing mothers to work. Labor force participation of women grew significantly during the war, and children of working mothers were eligible for the child care service. The centers had a peak enrollment near 130,000 children in 1944.”

Another component of the World War II era “Rosie the Riveter” campaign was less strategy and more the “luck” of history itself and the state of the economy.  Many of the women taking on these jobs came out of the Depression desperate for jobs, they came from the Dustbowl and from failed farms in the Midwest with a need to provide for themselves and their families.  These jobs were attractive because they paid well.

Rose Barquist, for example, travelled to California in June of 1941 in search of a better life. “My future in Iowa would have been to go to work in someone’s house for three dollars a week maybe, and be seduced by somebody and be a farmer’s wife, the rest of my life, if I was lucky,” she said. ** At the Kaiser Shipyards she’d earn $1 per hour, $1.20 if she worked graveyard shift. (doesn’t sound like much by today’s standards, but compared to $3 per week, Rose would be flush with cash).

And there was also patriotism brought on by the war.  It was time when Americans were supportive of the war and willing to sacrifice in ways that just don’t happen in today’s war.

Bottom line:  the idea of a Rosie the Riveter strategy is cute, but until the U.S. government decides that it wants to support THIS country, OUR workers, OUR industries, it’ll never happen.

*  *   *   *

**Rose Barquist, “Rosie the Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral History Project” conducted by Samuel J. Redman in 2011, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2012.

****Source: Boundless. “Economic Conversion and Business in WWII.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 10 Jun. 2015. Retrieved 10 Jun. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/from-isolation-to-world-war-ii-1930-1943-26/mobilization-in-the-u-s-205/economic-conversion-and-business-in-wwii-1121-8785/

Learn more here:

“Here’s What Happened The One Time When The U.S. Had Universal Childcare”
Automobile Factories Switched to War Production As America Entered World War II
http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/automobile-factories-switched-to-war-production-as-america-entered-world-war-ii/

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Submerging myself in Rosie the Riveter History

For the last week or so I’ve been reading oral history transcripts from Rosie the Riveters, listening to oral histories of Rosie the Riveters, and watching Bomb Girls on Netflix.  And I’ve been reading about those women too:

Girls of Atomic CityThe Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (Touchstone, March 2013)

Drawing from the voices and experiences of the women who lived and worked in Oak Ridge, The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of World War II from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. “A phenomenal story,” and Publishers Weekly called it an “intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history.”

Our Mothers WarOur Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin, Free Press; Reprint edition (March 7, 2005)

Our Mothers’ War is an eye-opening and moving portrait of women during World War II, a war that forever transformed the way women participate in American society. Never before has the vast range of women’s experiences during this pivotal era been brought together in one book. Now, Our Mothers’ War re-creates what American women from all walks of life were doing and thinking, on the home front and abroad. These heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking accounts of the women we have known as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers reveal facets of their lives that have usually remained unmentioned and unappreciated.

Bottom line is that I can’t stop thinking about those women.

Every Monday I host a drop-in writing group.  I pull prompts from a big box of prompts I’ve written, or stolen from fellow writers (Pablo Neruda lines from The Book of Questions make great prompts, for example). I set the timer–seven minutes is usually a good amount of time–and we write.  We write without the critic, we write messy sentences, scribble cliches, and sometimes, if we’re luck we get some great story starts.  This past Monday every prompt seemed to spark a story about a Rosie as I recalled bits of stories from the many of read.  Here’s a couple of examples:

PROMPT: “Something happened there….”

Something happened there at the Shipyards: Eleanor learned how to weld. It wasn’t the two-day course they offered when she “joined the war effort” like the poster advertised down at the post office, it was in the weeks that followed. First they put her in the pre-fab shop tacking—basically readying the workpiece for the more experienced welder to lay a bead. They called it Heliarc welding back then, her torch was called a stinger, its sharp, hot, tungsten electrode jutted out and carried an arc that held enough heat to melt a seam connecting between two pieces of metal. It was amazing.

It didn’t take her too long to get the hang of it, to be good enough to weld on more important parts of a ship, the long beams that made the frame of the bottom of the ship. Cranes would carry the pieces into an open shop and cranes would have to carry them out.

The bay fog lingered for hours, and even when the sun came out, down it seemed it was always cold. Not like summer in Iowa. Despite the heat of her stinger, and the three layers of clothing she wore, Eleanor was always cold.

PROMPT: work

Work. It was never something she shied away from. In fact, she was so eager to start work at the shipyard, to join her older sister and her mother that she lied about her age to get a work permit. “I was just 15,” she said. “Had to have that statement notarized.”

Rose’s father Henry was the first to head west and when production ramped up and they began hiring women at the shipyards, he sent word back home. Rose, along with her sister and mother travelled to California from Iowa in 1942. The buses were so crowded with enlisted men who were give priority that they almost didn’t get on board. Rose and her sister traded off sitting in the aisle on a suitcase.

They were so desperate for work since The Depression, since losing their farm, that they were willing to take work anywhere.

Rose’s first job was in the office tallying up worksheets but on the third day her boss came in and said “We’ll have find something else for you, I think. You’re just not suited for this, are you?”

“I was never any good at numbers,” she said.

Rose began working the next day as an expeditor. She’d check in with the project manager to see what they needed and her job was go the supply house and get it. As with any new person on the job, and maybe especially because she was a girl, the guys would sometimes send her on fool’s errands, like the time they told her to get a left-handed crescent wrench. “But it was all in good fun,” she said.

*   *  *

The great thing about these exercises is not that they are the beginnings of this Searching for Rosie book, in fact as I look over the transcripts again I see I assigned details to the wrong Rosie the Riveter or I got the details wrong.   However, these exercises offered me a way in…  allowed me to tap into my subconscious and discover which stories I found most compelling.  And so now I have written the first five pages of my sample chapter.

I’m still overwhelmed and I’m in awe of both Yellin and Kiernan for their ability to immerse themselves so deeply and to create such compelling narratives.  But I feel good. I have begun.

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What to tell your husband

I am often dismayed by how little progress we have made towards equality for women, then I run across something like this  “What to tell your husband if he objects to your getting a war-time job” poster from WWII and I think, wow, I guess we have come far.

wwii-women-war-workAnd even in my lifetime we’ve come far….  did you know:

Until 1974 women could not apply for credit.

Until the 70s (and even into the 90s in some states) marital rape was not a crime.

Until 1978 a woman could be fired if she were pregnant.

More over here at Ms. magazine–>

 

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