Ring a Bell for Rosies

Rosies were women who did important work on the home front during World War II. With so many men at war, women stepped up and filled jobs that were traditionally done by men. Although these women inspired the cultural icon, Rosie the Riveter, not every Rosie riveted airplanes. Instead, they did an array of different jobs at factories and ship builders. Rosies made themselves an integral part of the war effort. Unfortunately, when the soldiers came back from war, the women were ushered out of those jobs so the men could return. While the soldiers were celebrated, the significant contributions of the women were, and continue to be, overlooked.

GFWC has many members who were Rosies, most of whom are in their nineties by now. Ninety-one year old Maxine Redmond Cook (Las Fidelis Study Club of Levelland) took a class in sheet metal work at the start of the war, and then went to work at the South Plains Army base. She likes to tell the story of her almost accident— she was working high above the ground when she began to slide off the edge of a wing, but luckily she stopped before falling to the cement below. Jennifer Marie Conaway McMullen (Women’s Club of San Bernardino) worked at Lockheed’s aircraft factory, and says, “The entire area was camouflaged under a very large burlap tarp painted with homes, trees, even fire hydrants to depict a scene of suburban life.” Late member Lela Mac Buster (Las Fidelis Study Club of Levelland) built Liberty Ships at the Kaiser Shipyards in California. The shipyard used to build a single ship in two weeks, but towards the end of the war, they were constructing three a day. These GFWC Rosies were imperative to the war, and their stories deserve telling.

Many daughters of Rosies are GFWC members as well, and are proud of their mothers’ important work. Dorothy Hawkes (Woman’s Club of New Cumberland) is the daughter of Mary B. Jones, who worked at the Hancock Manufacturing Company in New Cumberland, West Virginia. Leslie Jo Gatti (GFWC Wyoming President) is the daughter of Dolly Troutman Weaver, who worked at the Crane Naval Shipyard in Indiana. Dolly met her husband, and Leslie’s father, through the work carpool, where he drove her and a few others in his bright blue Chrysler. Leslie jokes, “My dad says he got my mother with ration stamps!” Dolly was President of the now disbanded Lytle (TX) Woman’s Club, and so Leslie and her daughter, Marianne, are GFWC Legacy members in her honor.

To honor Rosies like the superb women GFWC. Thanks! Plain and Simple, Inc. (Thanks!), a nonprofit, has organized the Ring a Bell for Rosies event, where bells will be rung at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Labor Day nationwide. The major event will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where the nonprofit has arranged for two days of Rosie recognition. On Sunday, September 3, Rosies will be recognized by the ringing of the bell at the 10:00 a.m. church service, serving as a preview of the following day’s main event. At 1:00 p.m. on Labor Day, bells will be rung in the garden, and the bull bell will peal for three and a half hours.

The GFWC Woman’s Club of Huntington (West Virginia) will be holding an event as well. The club has participated in the bell ringing for many years, and have supported the recognition of Rosies by naming the first government building in America, “The Rosie the Riveter Building” in 2013, and by installing a display in Huntington’s historic hotel.

Events around the country will be starting at 12:30 p.m. on Labor Day, and then everyone will ring their bells at 1:00 p.m. to honor Rosies and their invaluable labor and efforts. Go to Thanks! Plain and Simple Inc. to learn more and find an event near you. Celebrate Rosies and share your photos at #RingaBellforRosie