Honoring the Women Who Served the Men Who Served in the Armed Forces

For Memorial Day I thought I’d offer a tribute to the women in my family, who made it possible for the men in my family to serve.  Sometimes these women served during wartime, managing households and children and cross-country moves, alone.  Some of these women served  during peace times, entertaining fellow officers, doing charitable endeavors, and making their husbands look good.  Unfortunately women are often not honored for this kind of hard work–the kind of hard work that makes it possible for their husbands to succeed in their careers and still have a family, and a nice home.

A trio of officer's wives: Aunt Pam (Mom's sister), Mimi (my grandmother), and Mom

My Aunt Pam was married to George Branch, USAF. I’m not sure what rank he attained, but he was a pilot, and I know they moved around a bit…  and Pam had FOUR kids in tow!

We called my grandmother “Mimi.” She was married to my grandfather, we called him “Papasan.”  He was a Commodore, and a pilot who served during World War II.  Donald G. Gumz retired at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station after having served as the commander there.

Mom.  She was married to my Dad, he retired as a Captain in the U.S. Navy.  He was an engineer, but also had a degree in Finance and worked on a lot of budget issues.  The first time my mother had to move by herself was when my Dad was at sea.  His ship, however was scheduled to return to a new home port, near San Francisco.  We had been living in Long Beach. My mother, with two small children (I was two, my sister was six), had to sell the house, find new “quarters” and pack up and move.

Granddad, and Grandma

Maurice E. Simpson, aka Granddad, retired an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. He married my Grandma, Ruby, just before he entered the Navy.  Grandma had grown up in a small town in Virginia, Sedley. She’d married, but her husband was killed in a car accident–she was pregnant with my Dad at the time.  Knowing she had a son to take care of, she went to nursing school, and was working as a nurse when she met “Maury.”  She used to tell me that all the girls called him “Dreamboat.”  Right after they married, they moved to San Diego, the first of many moves to come.  Also, World War II started up (my granddad was on a supply ship in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked).  I think they moved 11 times, though I’m not sure.  The duty stations that I know about include:  San Diego, San Francisco, Japan (post WWII), (Rota Spain), Long Beach, Great Lakes (near Chicago), Beaufort (one of the Carolinas), Quantico, VA, Washington DC, Norfolk… some like Norfolk may have been more than once.

Nana Gumz and Papi Gumz

I didn’t really know Nana or Papi Gumz– I was pretty young when they passed away. I do know that my Papi Gumz was, according to my Dad, “an old salt” a term used to describe someone who came up in the Navy the hard way…  my Ludwig Gumz joined the Navy at the age of 13. He lied about his age and joined as an Apprentice Boys, served during World War I and worked his way up to Lieutenant.  He was called back to active duty during World War II.  I wish I had more to say about my Great Grandmother. She was born Lillian Flood, and lived in Waukegan, Illinois when they married, according to a newspaper article I have (about the two Gumz men).  I remember visiting once and Nana Gumz made pancakes with chocolate chips IN them. I must have been about 8 and I thought that was the most ingenious thing EVER.

They may not have been Rosie the Riveters, but they served on the home front in their own way, throughout their lives.  And for that, they should be honored too.

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Real life Rosie the Riveter lives in Marquette with her World War II love – MiningJournal.net | News, Sports, Jobs, Marquette Information | The Mining Journal

Another real Rosie’s story, Lynn Roblin of Marquette, Michigan:

Real life Rosie the Riveter lives in Marquette with her World War II love – MiningJournal.net | The Mining Journal.

If you know of a real life Rosie the Riveter, let me know.

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Sixty Eight Years Ago Today

Norman Rockwell’s iconic image of Rosie the Riveter graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.  Check out this fantastic article on the Berkeley Blog, “Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter and World War II in American Memory” by history Ph.D. candidate Samuel Redman.

Did you know that UC Berkeley has an ongoing oral history project to record and archive the stories of the Rosies who came to the Bay area to work during World War II ?

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Rosie the Riveters in Arizona

From Jeff Dempsey, Daily News-Sun

Fewer Rosies remain: Sun City chapter of riveters happy for open house despite dwindling numbers

When Clara “Happy” Sargol started the Arizona chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association in 1999, the group had about 20 members.

Their numbers grew to about 85, though as time goes on that number shrinks little by little…..


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Bay Area Resource for Women in the Trades

The California Bay Area seems to be  hopping with organizations that support women working in trades, from the Rosie the Riveter Memorial Park in Richmond to Oakland’s The Crucible where women can learn to weld.

Oakland is also home to Tradeswomen, Inc., “California’s first organization for women in the trades, was founded in 1979 as a grass- roots support organization. We build community among the growing numbers of women in blue collar, skilled craft jobs.”


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Who Was Rosie the Riveter?

For a lot of people, this poster is the image that comes to mind when they hear “Rosie the Riveter.”  This poster was created sometime in 1942 by J. Howard Miller as part of an Ad Council campaign to encourage women to work the jobs left by men who were serving in the armed forces during World War II.

Geraldine Doyle, who passed away in December 2010, was the model for this Rosie.

The other image that comes to mind is the Norman Rockwell illustration that served as the cover for the Saturday Evening Post for the May 29, 1943 Memorial Day issue.  The original oil painting was acquired in 2009 by the soon to open Crystal Bridges museum of American art for a whopping 4.96 million dollars.  The museum is located in Bentonville, Arkansas.

But did you know there was a song?  “Rosie the Riveter” the song came out in 1943 sometime before Norman Rockwell’s Rosie appeared:



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Whatever Happened to Rosie the Riveter?

I’m fascinated by the image of Rosie the Riveter versus the reality, that only a small percentage are women ( a number that is falling in these tough economic times):

In 2007 women accounted for 6% of employed welders according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and more recent statistics (2009 data) shows only 4% of welders are women.

I’ll be blogging here primarily about women in welding, though that may cover women in other trades, where women are also underrepresented.  AND, I’ll be blogging about Rosie the Riveter.

Other topics that are related include:  gender equality, civil rights, Title IX, and women in the workforce.

You can read more details about this blog here, on the About Searching for Rosie Page.

As a note, I moderate all comments. As my mother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I do appreciate CIVIL discourse, and if you disagree with anything I write about, please do comment, just be nice about– I’m more apt to listen if you disagree in a nice way.

Posted in About this blog, Civil Rights, Gender Equality, Rosie the Riveter, The New Rosie, Title IX, Women in the Workforce, Women Welders | Leave a comment