39 Uses for Your “We Can Do It!” Bandana and the Connection to Duck Tape

by Matilda Butler on June 21, 2017

Post #83. Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Let Me Count the Ways…

“What can I do with my We Can Do It! Rosie the Riveter bandana?”

That’s a question we keep getting. So, with a nod to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Let me count the ways”, we’ve put together a list of uses for your red-and-white polka dot, “We Can Do It!” bandana. If you have additional suggestions, let us know. We’d love to add more uses to our expanding ways to celebrate Rosie the Riveter.

AND, If you read to the end of our list, we have a real treat of a story for you. It is a World War II, NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED tale of a woman ordnance worker (WOW) who made a huge difference in the lives of soldiers and sailers during the war and in most homes today. A fascinating bit of history.

[Once you read all these fun things to do with your Rosie’s Legacy Bandana, you just may want one for yourself and for a friend or family member. Just click here to go to our Etsy Store where we have the authentic, red and white polka dot bandanas and even more Rosie the Riveter goodies.]

#1. Tie your Rosie’s Legacy Bandana around your head and portray your inner “We Can Do It!”

#2. Wear (on your head, as a scarf, dangling from a pocket) your Rosie Bandana to a a party and take a second one along as a hostess gift.

#3. Protect your neck from mosquitoes by tying your bandana snug around your neck.

#4. Dip your red and white polka dot bandana in a cool mountain stream (or in cold water from the faucet) and tie it around your neck on the next hot day.

#5. Pack a lunch (or two) inside your huge Rosie Bandana, tie it shut, and go for a picnic. Even better, make this “hobo style” by attaching your lunch-filled bandana to a stick and slinging your lunch over your shoulder as you walk to a nearby park.

#6. Make a purse from your bandana…perfect for the hobo chic look that’s popular.

#7. Explore the beach but keep sunburn away by protecting yourself with your bandana.

#8. Host a party and set the table with Rosie bandanas. Or roll up the individual silverware settings in bandanas and tie them with kitchen twine or a decorative ribbon. Then invite guests to take their bandanas home as a remembrance. So much better than a paper napkin.

#9. Stay warm in winter by tying a Rosie bandana over your ears.

#10. Make a bandana halter top for summer wear.

#11. Have an ache or bruise? Put a bag of frozen peas inside your bandana to make a quick ice pack. Our Rosie bandana is large enough at 27″x27″ that you can also loosely tie the pack to the affected area, keeping the cold right where you want it to be.

#12. Make a sling from your bandana if you are more seriously hurt while out in nature. It will help until you can get to the doctor.

#13. Or, if you sustain a cut, use the bandana as a tourniquet. Then get to the hospital pronto.

#14. Tie the bandana on a pole and put it in front of your house to mark the location of your party. This idea is super great when you have a get together at a nearby park where there are multiple picnic areas. Just tell your guests to look for the Rosie the Riveter Legacy Bandana.

#15. Wrap a gift in your eco-friendly bandana. No wasted paper and the person gets two gifts instead of one.

#16. Wash your hands or face with a bandana while hiking or camping. You’ll find a child loves the unexpected playfulness of a Rosie Bandana used for cleanup.

#17. Take a pillow outside and cover it with your bandana. Rock your dots on what just may become your new favorite resting spot. It’s easy to wash your bandana so you always have a clean place to put your head.

#18. Pick up interesting rocks, shells, leaves on your walks? Just pull the folded bandana out of your pocket and you have a perfect wrap for your treasures.

#19. Find yourself at a ballgame where the seat is “less than clean”? No problem. just shake out your bandana and sit on it. When you stand up no messy food crumbs or sticky soda pop areas on your skirt or pants. Meanwhile, fold in the dirty side of the bandana and wash it when you get home. No fuss. No muss.

#20. Love your dog? Treat her (or him) to a Rosie bandana. Don’t dogs look cute decked out in a bandana!

#21. Clean those smudges off your sunglasses with your We Can Do It! bandana. There’s always a corner just waiting for this application.

#22. Keep the sun off a sleeping child in the car by securing your bandana in the top of the window. Heat and glare don’t belong on your precious baby.

#23. Travel with your toddler and you just may need a makeshift bib. Keep a Rosie bandana in your purse for just such an emergency. The meal will end without having to change your precious one’s clothes!

#24. Decorate a dorm room with a couple of bandanas — over a window, on a pillow, or draped around the edge of a lampshade.

#25. Shut out the light when you want a rest in the afternoon by using your red and white polka dot bandana as a sleep mask. Just fold it over your eyes or even tie it on if you are a restless sleeper.

#26. Wear your hair in a ponytail or in a braid? Secure it with your bandana for a bright look that’s good in summer or winter.

#27. Forgot your ruler? Use your bandana as a measuring tool. Our’s is 27″x”27 inches (the official bandana size as mandated by the Department of the Army for WOW: Women Ordnance Workers).

#28. Have a pot or cup that is too hot to hold on your camping trip? Whip out your bandana, fold it over, and turn it into a potholder to protect your hands.

#29. Extend the practicality of a baseball cap, which just keeps the sun off your face. Secure your bandana over the back of your neck by tucking it under your cap. [Think French Foreign Legion style.] This turns your bandana into a havelock, named after General Henry Havelock who popularized this way of protecting British soldiers from the fierce Indian sun.

#30. Work too hard in your garden and sweat will run down your face. Roll up your bandana and turn it into a sweat band. You’ll be more comfortable and you’ll look adorable too!

#31. Wear your bandana “robber style” when in a dusty or smoky area. Then get out as quickly as possible to stay safe.

#32. Dry dishes with your bandana when your kitchen towels are all in the washing machine or you are camping. The bandana will quickly dry overnight and be ready for use the next day.

#33. Bid farewell to a bad odor by placing one or two drops of lavender essential oil (or rubbing a few stalks of fresh lavender) on your bandana and tucking it in the offending area. Later wash it and your entire laundry load will have a light calming fragrance.

#34. Use your bandana to catch minnows for bait the next time you are fishing.

#35. Sew a bandana dress for your toddler.

#36. Use the bandana as a makeshift apron for your young helper in the kitchen.

#37. Wear a bandana under your bike helmet to stay cooler.

#38. Thread your bandana through the loops on trousers…a fun replacement belt.

#39. Want a retro game to play with your children or grandchildren? Use the bandana to blindfold one person and play Blind Man’s Bluff.

— And possibly #40. Filter debris from water with your bandana. It definitely works, but don’t count on it to purify water as it can just remove large contaminants.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Bandanas are sometimes put in the same category as Duck Tape because they both have many and varied uses. As I researched this idea, I found a fascinating piece of history that takes us back to World War II, again.

I first learned about Women Ordnance Workers (WOW) a number of years ago while reading about Rosie the Riveters and bandanas worn by workers during WW2. Munitions plants were dangerous places to work and the women there had the daily concern about potential explosions. Furthermore, the toxic chemicals caused health issues both during the war and for many of the women throughout their lives. Wearing a bandana was required to help reduce static electricity and official ones were issued by the Department of the Army.

One WOW, Vesta Stoudt, had two sons in the Navy and worked at the Green River Ordnance Plant in Illinois. Her primary job was inspecting and packing cartridges used by both the Navy and the Army.

Eleven cartridges were placed in each box. To ensure moisture could not get to the cartridges, the boxes were sealed with a thin tape made of paper that was then wax coated. One piece of unwaxed tape was left loose so that it could be pulled to open the box. The problem was that the thin paper often broke leaving soldiers desperately trying to open the boxes in the midst of battle. Not a good idea.

Enter Vesta Stoudt. She realized that the boxes could be sealed with a cloth waterproof tape and that would solve the problem. It would be strong enough to not break and would let soldiers quickly get to the needed ammunition. Her supervisors agreed but took no action. She showed her idea to government inspectors and they liked her suggestion, but did nothing.

And here is where Vesta Stoudt became a “Nevertheless, she persisted” woman. No one took her seriously but she persisted. She wrote a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (February 10, 1943) and said, in part:

“I suggested we use a strong cloth tape to close seams, and make a tab of same.  It worked fine, I showed it to different government inspectors. They said it was all right, but I could never get them to change tape. I have two sons out there some where, one in the Pacific Island the other one with the Atlantic Fleet.  You have sons in the service also.  We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or more to open, the enemy taking their lives, that could have been saved had the box been taped with a strong cloth tape that can be opened in a split second.  I didn’t know who to write to, Mr. President, so have written you hoping for your boys, my boys, and every man that uses the rifle grenade, that this package of rifle cartridges may be taped with the correct tape.” 

FDR forwarded Vesta Stoudt’s letter to the War Production Board who took the idea seriously. By March of 1943, Vesta received an acknowledgement of her idea and not long afterwards a letter stating that her recommendation had been approved. The War Production Board went to Johnson & Johnson to ask them to develop and manufacture such a tape because of their experience in making surgical adhesive tapes. When they began to produce the tape, it was called Duck Tape as water rolled off it and the munitions were kept dry.

The Duck Tape became a favorite “tool” in the military. It wasn’t long before soldiers found additional uses for it such as repairing vehicles, securing cracked windows, strapping equipment to their clothing, fixing broken items, and the list goes on and on.

Of course, the end of World War II didn’t mean the end of Duck Tape. The housing boom after the war brought about the installation of heating ducts in hundreds of thousands of new homes across America. Duck tape was quickly found to be the perfect solution for sealing the air gap between lengths of metal duct. Soon Duck Tape was manufactured in silver rather than camo color and became called Duct Tape.

So whether you call it Duck Tape or Duct Tape, just be sure to acknowledge Vesta Stoudt for her idea and her persistence. And yes, the Chicago Tribune gave her a War Worker Award for “her idea and her persistence.”

[The research on Duck Tape was conducted by Vesta Stoudt’s great granddaughter, Kari Santo. We send her our thanks as it gives us another story of women working during World War II and their contribution to winning the war. We value Vesta’s Stoudt’s strength and courage, her commitment during the war, and especially her persistence.]

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