Saturday, September 1, 2007

Saluting Rosie the Riveter

My friend Maurice says I'm long overdue for a story about the role of women in the war effort. He is right. This week I am going to devote all my blog articles to the role of women in World War Two.
Maurice sent my an article that appeared in yesterday's online edition of Army Times. I quote it here:
Real-life Rosies set to fly on WWII planes

The Associated PressPosted : Friday Aug 31, 2007 11:46:58 EDT

NEW YORK — Anne King was 19 and earning $12 a week in a dime store when she was recruited in 1942 to learn how to make airplane parts. She worked at Republic Aviation on Long Island as a mechanic and riveter on P-47 Thunderbolt fighters and other aircraft.
King and five other women who performed wartime factory work were set to gather Friday at what is now Republic Airport in Farmingdale and take rides in a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator "as a tribute to their war efforts," said Hope Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the American Airpower Museum on the grounds of the airport.

Exhibitions by vintage aircraft are holiday fixtures at the museum, but this is the first time any of the women, the "Rosie the Riveters" who helped build World War II aircraft, have had a chance to fly in them, Kaplan said.

King, who turns 85 Saturday, said she was "not the least bit nervous" about her first flight in a vintage bomber.

"I'd like to ride in the B-24," said Josephine Rachiele, 82, who was also scheduled to take a tribute flight. "My friend Bernadette's father was a waist gunner on a B-24 and I would like to tell her what it's like."

Rachiele recalled that when she first went to work as a riveter at Republic in 1943, "I didn't know a rivet from a nail, and it was so noisy that I was really frightened. The rivet guns shooting rivets and the drill press stomping on metal — it was pandemonium."

At war's end, she said, the women were given the choice of staying or leaving so that returning service members could have the jobs. Rachiele quit but returned in later years to Republic, where she was known both as "Josie the Riveter" and "Rosie the Riveter."

Georgette Feller, 86, said she was "already one step ahead" when she joined Republic Aviation as a riveter.

"My father was an excellent mechanic, and I already knew how to use a rivet gun, and I could tell aluminum from steel," she said.

"It was a great job, but I had trouble with the man who was my first partner — he said he wasn't happy working with a dizzy broad."

Feller knows Friday's flight is a great opportunity.

"I'm at the end of my days and I want every good experience I can have," she said. "That sounds like a good one for me."

While the actual number of women employed in defense plants is uncertain, historians say the war brought about 6 million women into the work force for the first time. They almost always made less money than men working at the same tasks.

In 1943, a promotional film using an actual riveter named Rose at Michigan's Willow Run bomber plant as its model popularized the "Rosie the Riveter" image. A song furthered the cause, as did a Saturday Evening Post cover by illustrator Norman Rockwell, depicting Rosie with her feet resting on a copy of Adolf Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf."

During World War II the United States government sought increased domestic production to supply the war effort while at the same time sending a percentage of the male work force into military service. To help meet the need for a larger labor force, the government created Rosie the Riveter, shown here. The publicity campaign focusing on the fictional poster girl, which ran from 1942 to 1945, encouraged women to support the war by working outside the home. More than 6 million women joined the U.S. domestic work force during World War II.

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