He Helped Train Rosie the Riveter

by Matilda Butler on November 12, 2013

Post #56 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

We have a story, and the person behind the story, that we’d like to share today. As we all know, women entered the workforce during World War II as men joined the military. Sometimes they were hired a few at a time and sometimes in large numbers and that varied by year and by industry. They came to factories from farms and from the city. But few, if any, already had the training needed for their new wartime jobs. So an interesting question to ask is: Who trained them?

Fortunately, one of our readers emailed us his story and with his permission, we are publishing it.

BILL THOMAS: It may interest you to know I was one of the trainers of Rosie the Riveter. I worked at a plant in Detroit during 1942. There was only the foreman, 40 women, and me. And only being 18-19, I took a lot of “teasing” from the older women at my expense.

ROSIE’S DAUGHTERS: We’re really interested to know that you helped train Rosies. I bet you actually liked the teasing.

BILL THOMAS: I neglected to mention we worked at Fisher Body, a division of General Motors. The Rosies placed the rivets into the “nacelles” (the big aluminum ring) that covers the engines of the B-25 bombers. Our Rosies were the women who helped build that part of the bombers.

As to the teasing, that was fun; but OH some of the stories they told… wow! would make sailors blush…
And I blushed a lot when the so-called “cougars” came after a shy, naive teenager that I was. I’d say, “I’ve grown up a lot since then.”

ROSIE’S DAUGHTERS: Thanks for the additional note. I love knowing the details of what the Rosies were doing.

BILL THOMAS: I looked at the film where “the modern Rosie” is riding in a P-47. What a relic now, but that plane, plus many others, were very important and crucial in winning World War II.

Here’s a little more of the back story. After a few weeks as a riveter at Fisher Body, I became the rivet repairman for anything that didn’t pass “inspection.” It was my job to drill out the failed rivet(s) and replace them. That means I understood what it took to have a good rivet.

That’s what led to my job as the “Rosie Trainer.” We had new women employees constantly coming to work to replace the men as they left to enter the military services.

And why wasn’t I in the military? The company kept getting military deferments for me without my knowledge because they wanted to keep me training new Rosies. But when my two closest buddies draft numbers came up, I decided to enlist so the three of us could serve together.

The “brass” had other ideas. My friend Perry was sent to the Air Transport Command. He has died. My second friend, Bud, became an infantryman. He died in the “Battle of the Bulge.” I became a “forward observer” in an artillery battalion in N. Africa and western Europe.

We racked up 565 days of combat time.

ROSIE’S DAUGHTERS: At the end of our email exchange Bill wrote: “Sorry for the war story It just came out.” We hope that Bill will continue to tell his story just as we urge Rosie’s to tell theirs. We all need to hear them and appreciate them and pass them on to the younger generations. Thanks Bill.

ROSIE’S DAUGHTERS: Happy Birthday, Bill. Congratulations on turning 90 today — November 12, 2013


Rosie the Riveter Still Going Strong at 93

by kendra on September 18, 2013

Post #53 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

This is quite a story. It appears in the Local section of the September 18, 2013, LA Times and is entitled: “At 93, This Rosie is Still Riveting.”

Yes, Rosie the Riveter is as popular as ever. She’s reached the pinnacle of becoming an icon for women. The “We Can Do It!” poster resonates with generations of women–young, old and in between. She’s our role model for the strong, independent, empowered woman. And deservedly so. As Matilda Butler and I explain in our book Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story, the generation of WWII women factory workers and their counterparts working in offices, driving delivery trucks and the navigating the skies in cargo planes showed both men and future generations of women exactly what women could do. Everything!

Well, now this story takes an interesting twist because at 93 Elinor Otto is still riveting at the same McDonald Douglass plant in San Diego where she started working in 1942. She loves life and adores working, and she wields a rivet gun on the assembly line building C-17 Globemaster transport planes. All I can say is may we all be as active when we get into our 80s and 90s. It’s quite a story.

And I think it’s pretty cool that the story is told at this time of year. So many women enjoy dressing as Rosie the Riveter for Halloween. As we see from our bandana and Rosie gear accessory sales, many women are already thinking about their costumes. And this year, maybe we should all dress as Elinor the Riveter. She is a role model worth honoring.


Video: Rosie the Riveter Model Gets Ready for a Photo Shoot

by kendra on September 11, 2013

Post #52 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

This is a quick post because we want to share this cute video of the behind-the-scenes set up for a Rosie the Riveter photo shoot. It’s great fun. And yes, the model (Petunia Goldsmith) IS wearing one of our Rosie the Riveter Legacy Bandanas. She’s so perfect for this. Petunia completely captures the style of the 1940s. So enjoy.


Who Will You Be This Halloween? Let Rosie the Riveter Help You Decide.

by kendra on September 6, 2013

Post #51 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

There’s a nip in the air. Can you feel it? It’s slight. Ever so slight. But it’s there. We’re still weeks away from frost on the pumpkin, but the dew is heavier. And the nights are cooler. I don’t know about you, but I have a craving for a crisp McIntosh. And I’m looking forward to the smells of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg filling the house as my first pumpkin pie of the season bakes.

All this can only mean one thing. Halloween is less than 60 days away. It’s time to start thinking costume. Are you in panic mode yet? Well this little video may help you:

Whether your inspiration comes from the pumpkin patch or this video, Rosie the Riveter is always a good choice. Not only is Rosie a powerful icon for women but her costume is very affordable.

All you need is a pair of blue jeans and a blue work shirt (some women go with a pair of blue coveralls instead). You’ll need some boots, loafers or sensible shoes although you could wear canvas hightop sneakers. And one woman decided to spice up her Rosie a bit by wearing red patent leather heels.

And that’s another great thing about Rosie the Riveter. You can personalize your costume in so many ways. We receive so many wonderful photos from women who dress as Rosie for Halloween or other special events; we decided to create another video in order to use some of them:

Rosie the Riveter is in the Accessories

The fun of dressing up like Rosie the Riveter for Halloween (or any event) is in the details…the accessories. Here are a few that you’ll need:

  • Bright red lipstick
  • Rosie’s red-and-white polka dot bandana
  • Rosie’s official employment badge collar pin (she couldn’t get into the factory without it)
  • A few rivets to put in your pocket (in case people don’t know what Rosie was famous for)
  • A WWII ration book (Rosie never left home without hers)
  • The We Can Do It! poster (but without Rosie’s famous portrait…this one let’s you be the center of attention

We created our DIY Rosie Kit to be the ultimate Rosie the Riveter Legacy Portrait Kit. It includes everything you need (except jeans, shirt, shoes and lipstick) for the perfect Rosie the Riveter Halloween costume.

The perfect Rosie the Riveter accessory kit

The perfect Rosie the Riveter accessory kit

It even includes a couple fun additions. We created a great zipper pull that looks like Rosie’s employment badge collar pin. You can put it on your favorite jacket or vest to show your connection with Rosie every day. And we wrote a little cookbook that will give you an idea of how people cooked and ate back during WWII when so many things were either rationed or just not available.

So, who will you be this Halloween? Rosie has your answer!

And One More Thing

Actually, make that two. First, we’ve started a Pinterest board for Rosie the Riveter and all the women who enjoy dressing as Rosie. Hope you’ll check it out. We named it Rosie’s Bandana

And second, we saw a great idea (on Pinterest) for incorporating your We Can Do It poster into your costume. Glue the poster to some heavy cardboard or foam core board, which you can get at the craft store. Then cut four holes toward the bottom and run a ribbon through the two on the right and the another ribbon through the two on the left. Tie the ribbons around your arms (up by your shoulder) and you can wear the sign behind you.


Appreciation Shown for a Modern Day Rosie

by Matilda Butler on August 16, 2013

Post #50 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

A Modern Day Rosie the Riveter

Kendra and I love hearing stories of women who remind us of the strength and courage that Rosie the Riveter represents. We recently received the following and decided to share it with you.


by Rebecca Wallace

My best friend is celebrating her 40th birthday in a few days. Because of the dynamic individual she is, I bought her a Rosie Legacy Bandana and shirt. I don’t have a picture of her wearing her outfit yet, but I wanted to share with you why she epitomizes your motto–strength, courage, and empowerment.

Dixie is the dedicated mother of five children, ranging in age from 8 to 17. She is the supportive wife of an active duty Air Force Major, whose career has moved the family several times, and has taken him away from home frequently. One especially challenging assignment had him gone for 220 days a year for four straight years. Often alone, Dixie’s strength held their expanding family together during that time. Her patriotism, sacrifice, and commitment to our nation’s freedom is inspiring.

As is typical of Dixie, she does not shirk work. Presently, she serves as the head of a large children’s organization at church, with responsibility for over 100 children, a Cub Scout program, a girl’s activities program, and a large volunteer staff of teachers and leaders. This is an unpaid church assignment which consumes a good deal of her time, but one which capitalizes on her excellent administrative abilities.

Dixie’s hands are never idle. She owns an embroidery business, which she operates from her home. Late into the night, lights can be seen illuminating her studio where project after project is brought to completion. Somehow she finds the time to garden and tend flower beds, which with her care have blossomed here in the desert Southwest–no small feat.

I don’t remember a day going by when Dixie hasn’t taken a meal to someone in need, or dropped off homemade bread or cookies, or cared for children, or cut hair, or helped with homework, or provided rides, or refinished furniture, or rendered First Aid–her list of daily accomplishments and service to others is seemingly endless. She meets each day with courage and purpose.

Naturally modest, Dixie would never tell you any of these things, nor find them extraordinary. She sees what must be done, and DOES IT! In our day, where people are more interested in entitlement than empowerment, Dixie is a reminder of the legacy of Rosie the Riveter.

We Agree

Dixie, thanks for all you do to make this a better place for your family and for others. We think Rosie the Riveter would be proud of you and delighted to see you in your Rosie the Riveter Legacy Bandana.


Halloween Costumes: Just Around the Corner

by Matilda Butler on August 1, 2013

Post #49 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Rosie the Riveter and Halloween

Kendra and I were talking about Halloween the other day and realized that it soon will be time for everyone to start planning their costumes. So Kendra came up with this cute video — only 30 seconds and fun. In the coming months and days before Halloween, Kendra will be creating some more videos. Hope you like them.

But what about all the World War II Rosies? Who did Rosie dress as during the war? We did some research and found out something we should have been able to figure out on our own. You see, Halloween had been growing in popularity in the U.S. beginning early in the 20th century. Then World War II came along and by April 1942, sugar was rationed. Rosie and her friends couldn’t just go to Costco or Sam’s Club or Walmart to purchase big bags of candies to hand out. They made the treats that they gave out. So, with the supply of sugar restricted, Halloween’s popularity dropped. Rosie didn’t have the sugar or the time to cook a lot of cookies or candies. Sure there were still some parties, but it was a more subdued celebration. However, once sugar rationing ended in June of 1947, the popularity of Halloween began to ratchet up again.

I don’t know about you, but we’re seeing the growing number of women who reject the skimpy costumes designed primarily to reveal their bodies and the expensive costumes that will only be worn once. Instead, so many are going as Rosie the Riveter — a fun and inexpensive costume. The red-and-white polka dot bandana can be used all year long. Who wears a fake tiara or wig in the days and months after Halloween?

So we hope you’ll join us and the large number of other women who are going as Rosie this Halloween. By the way, last year we introduced our Rosie the Riveter DIY Portrait kit and it was wildly popular for Halloween. It comes complete with everything you need to be Rosie. Just don the Rosie Gear, pose in front of the Portrait Background Poster, and snap your picture. This is great for classrooms, office parties, gatherings of friends, senior centers, …just about any place.

Here’s Jessica Ross, “Doing the Rosie” in front of her DIY Portrait Background Poster.

  • Rosie “We Can Do It!” Portrait Background Poster (24″ x 32″)
  • Authentic Rosie the Riveter Legacy Bandana (27″ x 27″)
  • Rosie the Riveter Employment Badge Collar Pin
  • Rosie the Riveter Employment Badge Zipper Pull
  • Rosie’s Rivets and Polka-Dot Bag (pretty organza bag filled with real metal rivets)
  • Rosie the Riveter Legacy Cookbook (recipes popular during the war years)
  • Rosie’s War Ration Book (because Rosie never left home without hers)
  • Heavy-duty cardboard mailing tube and shipping label (making this a great gift for a mother, daughter, granddaughter or dear friend)
  • Casie Ziegler showing the strength of women

    Casie Ziegler. Never underestimate the power of a woman.

    Have a precious little girl in your family? Someone you want to know that she has courage, strength, and empowerment? Then we think you’ll love this photo of Casie “Doing the Rosie” in front of the poster her mother bought for her.


    A Rosie the Riveter Takes Aim During Reading Air Show’s WWII Weekend 2013

    by Matilda Butler on July 17, 2013

    Post #48 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

    Rosie the Riveter Reenactor

    Kendra and I fill orders from our Rosie the Riveter Legacy Gear all year around. Of course, Halloween is our busiest time, but there are so many other reasons and occasions to wear the Rosie bandana, Rosie employment pin and Rosie zipper pull, to sip coffee or tea from our Rosie red and white polka dot mug, to pose in front of our DIY Rosie Poster, etc.

    And we sometimes get an email to let us know how our Rosie the Riveter products are used. Last night, I got a wonderful email from Ken C. He purchased our red and white polka dot bandana as a surprise for Celia C. Here’s his note:

    Fortunately, I was able to surprise Celia. She didn’t know she was attending [the Reading, Pennsylvania Air Show's WWII Weekend] as a reenactor until we were in the hotel room the night before the event and I gave her all the stuff to wear. I even made a custom ID badge for her. It has her picture and “North American Aviation 1943.”

    Celia standing by B-25 Mitchell Yankee Warrior

    Celia standing by B-25 Mitchell Yankee Warrior

    This was Celia’s first time at Reading and she was worried that no one would know who she was supposed to be. But from the minute she set foot on the airfield she was immediately referred to as “Rosie” by everyone from little kids to WWII veterans.

    The group we were with had a Browning machine gun that they allowed her to fire during a demonstration. It was the first time she ever fired a gun (go figure).

    Thank you for your assistance in making a great weekend for both of us.

    Kendra and I loved the video and thought we’d share it with you. Celia’s expression is priceless.

    Thanks Ken for sending us the photo and video and for letting us see one of our Rosie the Riveter bandanas used in a reenactment.


    The Real Memorial Day

    by kendra on May 30, 2013

    Post #47 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

    On May 25 -27, Americans celebrated Memorial Day with a three-day long weekend. Memorial Day has become our unofficial start of summer. Backyard barbecues are fired up, retailers tantalize customers with sales, children start counting the days until school is out, and the owners of seasonal businesses pray for warm, sunny weather.

    But lest we forget, Memorial Day has far more serious roots. Its origins, while a little cloudy, seem to lie with women in the south spontaneously decorating the graves of their Civil War fallen–hence what was first known as Decoration Day. In 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed the day. And on May 30 of that year, they decorated the graves of soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery (both Union and Confederate). Within a few years, states were joining in, honoring all American soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

    By 1882, Memorial Day began to creep into the language although it didn’t become common until after the Second World War. Also in the twentieth century, that remembrance expanded to include the fallen of all American wars. After World War I, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th to be Veterans Day to honor all who have served, reserving Memorial Day for those who gave the “last full measure of devotion,” a phrase that comes to us from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Incidentally, November 11th is significant because in 1918 World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

    But our officials were not finished. On May 26, 1966, President Johnson named Waterloo, New York, to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, also making Memorial Day the official name. And the following year, as part of legislation to make several long weekends of Federal holidays, Congress moved the date from May 30th to the last Monday in May…although Waterloo, New York, still celebrates Memorial Day on May 30th.

    Not everyone is happy with the decision to move Memorial Day, and from time to time resolutions and petitions are presented in an effort to return Memorial Day to its original date. But these are mostly symbolic efforts.

    This year, Danville Paint & Decorating in Danville, California, posted a series of four articles on its Facebook page. Along with a sale of Benjamin Moore paint, the owners DeWayne and Barbara Ryan honored the fallen but also made reference to Rosie the Riveter. You’ll find a couple interesting posts about the role of Rosie serving on the California home front. It’s interesting to note that with World War II coming on the heels of The Great Depression, the gearing up to manufacture planes, boats, vehicles and ammunition is often seen as a Second Gold Rush for the state.

    And there’s another interesting tidbit in these posts. Apparently Ryan’s father who had been 4-F and didn’t serve on the front lines signed up to work at the San Diego plant of Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation. There he trained the Rosies to rivet. Vern Ryan, who is now 95, said that among his crew of hard-working women was a team of riveter and bucker who were faster than any other.

    This all serves as a reminder. It doesn’t matter if we celebrate with hamburgers on the grill, a beach holiday or a trip to the mall to cash in on bargains…as long as we take a moment to remember the men and women who gave their lives to protect our freedom. And if you want to include a nod to Rosie the Riveter, well that’s okay too. Just as long as you know the real meaning of Memorial Day and never forget.


    Rosie the Riveter Bandana on Her Head and a Rosie on Her Arm

    by Matilda Butler on February 15, 2013

    Post #46 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

    Rosie Would Be Impressed

    For the past few years at work, I have dressed up as Rosie the Riveter during Halloween. It started just as a fun, comfortable, cute costume, but over the past two years it has become more serious to me than that.

    As you can see from the picture I have her tattooed on my arm and she symbolizes to me the hard working, beautiful American woman. I got the tattoo to honor all of the Rosie’s out there as well as all of the men and women they supported.

    So every year at the office a lot of my co-workers look forward to seeing me dressed up as Rosie especially since I have her authentic bandana. I will continue to dress up as her every year and wear her bandana and her picture on my arm proudly.

    — Jennifer Strafford


    Modern Rosie the Riveter Wins Music CD

    by Matilda Butler on February 11, 2013

    Post #45 - Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

    Winner Announced for “We Can Do It! - Celebrating Women in WWII” Music CD Giveaway

    On January 31, we announced a contest with the prize of a new CD featuring the vintage songs of WWII, performed by military bands. Altissimo Recordings has just released this CD and offered to give a copy to one of our commenters. In announcing the contest, we invited readers to tell us “what you like about Rosie or what you admire about women who worked in WWII or why you like the music of that era.”

    We got some really great comments. We wish we had CDs for everyone, but we had to select just one. Our congratulations to Robyn Womac-Fortin. She seems to embody the modern day spirit of Rosie the Riveter. We hope you all agree with our choice. Below is her comment.

    Be Sure to Get Your Copy of the CD

    You can all be winners when you purchase a copy of this CD. Just click on the image to the left. Amazon lets you sample the songs. Then you can purchase individual ones or even the entire set as MP3 files. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase all 20 songs on CD. Either way, you’re bound to enjoy this nostalgic music.

    Winning Comment

    Congratulations Robyn…

    As a young army wife of an active duty solider it is difficult when my counterpart is sent off to boot camp, then selection, and numerous training schools. At the beginning of 2013, he left for our first deployment.

    We live outside the city surrounded by acres of farm land and I am out here all alone save my three dogs. When my husband is gone it always seems like my fortitude is tested with a crazy turn of events. The week he left, our truck broke down and I didn’t have the money to take it in. Instead I watched some YouTube videos and figured out how to replace an alternator on my own and fixed the truck!

    Next, coyotes attacked one of my dogs mangling her to the brink of death. In the daytime I tend to her and at night I’m spotlighting to thin out their vicious pack.

    When random things break around the house, and trust me they have, it’s on me to fix it. So I roll up my sleeves, give myself a pep talk and say “I can do it!” Last Halloween I bought myself one of your bandanas [through this website] and recently I find myself wearing it when doing yard work and repairs. Like refurbishing the old 1920s tobacco barn on the back of our property. Or sanding down my old doors for a home project.

    I know it may sound crazy but when your all alone sometimes you find your strength through things you normally wouldn’t. When I put on that polka-dotted piece of cloth I feel like I have the motivation and will to take on any obstacle. I think back on what it must have been like for all those women to be outta their comfort zone, learning a new trade to help keep our nation functioning and our men alive through all their efforts on the home front.

    I have always enjoyed music from past eras, Ella Fitzgerald is my all time favorite singer. If you ask most girls in their 20s today who Ella Fitz is, they most likely have no clue. The music during that era for some reason has always spoken to me. Before my husband left he bought me a going away present, even though he was the one doing the leaving. The present is a replica gramophone that uses no electricity just the acoustic construction of the horn to play music off iPhones! You place your phone in this hole and sound funnels up the base through the neck and is amplified out. It even makes new music sound like an old record.

    I would love nothing more than to have the songs of World War II play through my gramophone to help time pass till my husband returns.

    –Robyn Womac-Fortin


    Rosie the Riveter's Bandana With Mug - RosiesDaughters.com