The Norman Transcript

Columns

April 25, 2013

‘Rosie the Riveter’ pointed to them

NORMAN — “Rosie the Riveter” posters influenced many women during World War II to work in military factories. The work was hard and the money good.

“I wonder how hard it is to get a job out at the base,” May wondered. Her neighbors already worked every day. “I wouldn’t mind trying. Even though my office experience is dated, I’ll bet I could find a factory job.”

Her husband left the room, rather than discuss it.

May asked her neighbor how difficult it was to get a job.

“Just think, we could ride together.”

Her neighbor took her to the base and introduced her to the supervisor. He asked May to fill in her personal history to the day she was born.

“For a security clearance,” he told her.

The next day, May joined her neighbor. The minute she entered the warehouse, the supervisor met her.

“Here are your tools,” he told her. “Put on this tool apron and go work with that group.” He nodded toward a small knot of people working on an engine. “They’ll show you what to do.”

May joined the group and someone shoved a drill into her hands. “But …” she stammered, “don’t I need to know what to do, first?”

“You’re wasting the war effort. Get started.”

May came home with an extroardinary headache. She quit after working a while because she was pregnant.

“After the baby’s born,” she said. Her husband just nodded.

Many women held out to the end of the war. Most were “retired” as the warriors returned, needing jobs. Some ladies, accustomed to earning, looked around for what was available, usually finding only low-level work.

Jill and her friend, Teri, heard they were hiring at the candy factory.

“Do you think they’ll pay as well as the factory?” Teri said.

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