Over 2,100 participants gathered at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond on the 13th of August to break the Guinness World record for most ‘Rosie the Riveters’ in one place. Women, men and children participated in the event to honor the trailblazers who stepped up to the call of duty during WWII. Original Rosie’s were in attendance including Agnes Moore, Kay Morrison, Marian Wynn, Primetta Giacopini, and Priscilla Elder. Moore, 96, worked in the Richmond Shipyards as a welder for 4 years. Giacopini, 100, made ball bearings for bomb-sight equipment. The Richmond plant had approximately 40,000 workers from different regions who built more than 8,600 B-24 Liberator bomber aircrafts.
The call for women to work at the plant came out of need as these jobs were only held by men prior to enlisting and being drafted into combat. The women became known as “Rosie the Riveters” due to a marketing campaign that was made to attract more workers. They became welders, machinists, electricians, carpenters, mechanics, rail yard, farm, and gas station workers. There were also several clerical positions that were created increasing the number of women in the workforce by 50%.
It was the first time that minority women and disabled workers were given a choice in work. Older workers were also recruited. A quote by Fanny Christina Hill hangs in the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park that states, “Hitler was the one who got us out of the white folks’ kitchen.” The discrimination that many of these women faced adds to the strength and power of the Rosie the Riveter image when you learn the complicated layers of its history and what the different groups of women had to endure. President Roosevelt didn’t sign the Fair Employment Act of 1941 until African American leaders threatened to a protest march. Once hired, they were given entry level, low paying and the more dangerous jobs like ammunition production. They were also the first to be laid off when the war ended.
Once the war was over the women were then pushed back into the home so the men could take back “their” jobs. This sparked and influenced many civil rights movements. Women got a chance to show what they were capable of and after proving themselves had society turn their backs on them.
The significance of the event went beyond dressing up, it was a reminder that no matter how many times we have to prove ourselves, and how annoying that is, we will persevere! That’s what the Rosie’s did while they were changing history and probably didn’t even know it. We’ve come a long way but there’s still work to be done. Women still get paid less, promoted less and harassed in the work place. We have to channel the Rosie spirit and keep going. The spirit of the annual event and the smiles of the real Rosie’s makes this a “must do” for all women. You can also visit the museum for free throughout the year!
Rosie the Riveter WWII/ Home Front National Historical Park is free! To find out how to donate and how you too can celebrate the life of Rosie the Riveter go to: http://www.rosietheriveter.org.