WASHINGTON– During War World II, “Rosie the Riveter” became an American icon. She was a housewife, mom, sister and daughter, stepping into the workforce for the first time to help keep the country going while the men were off fighting the war.
Now, over seven decades later, some of them have returned, to make sure their story lives on in generations to come.
Meet 91 year-old Evie Martindale, from Akron, Ohio. She’s a real-life Rosie the Riveter. She laughs and tells WTOP on a recent trip to D.C., “I didn’t do riveting, I helped make gas masks.” She worked for a subsidiary of Goodrich Tire and Rubber Company from 1943 to 1945.
More than six million women like Martindale entered the work force during the Second World War. “We had to pitch in because they needed people to work,” she said, noting she was about 20 years old at the time. There was social pressure to step up and help out.
“A group of us from West Hill in Akron, Ohio decided to go down and help the war effort and our husbands were in the service. And mine was in the Navy,” she recalled, adding that the women stayed until the end of the war.
But Martindale says it was kind of fun to be with a group where everybody had the same things going on in their lives, missing their husbands. They went out to dinner and did things together.
This was Martindale’s second trip to the nation’s capital — the last one was 50 years ago with her children. This time around, she came with four other Rosies to promote and educate Americans about Rosie the Riveter, and the important role she played during the war.
Their educational outreach effort takes on a bit of urgency, especially since these women are now in their late 80s and 90s.
West Virginian Vienna Hurt, 89, says she was only 17 or 18 when she worked in a sheet metal shop in a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard. She says they weren’t allowed to tell anyone what they were working on. Their answer would always be, “I don’t know” when someone asked. She says there were signs posted all over the shipyard that read, “Loose lips, sinks ships.”
Hurt says she really didn’t think much about what the Rosies were contributing at the time. But now, “I am one of the Rosies and very proud of it,” she says. “I can stick out my chest and say I did my little bit and I’m real proud of it.”