This piece is from my teacher education days at NAU (2010). I wrote it as a guide for a history presentation where the assignment was to dress up as a historical figure and present your life as if you were speaking to a classroom of school-aged children.
“Rose Monroe, aka “Rosie the Riveter”
Born on March 12, 1920 in Pulaski County, which is in Kentucky.
I was a young mother, carrying for 2 children, when my husband died in a sudden car accident. Ugh! When that happened, I was devastated! I mean, of course- What woman wouldn’t be crushed to lose the man who she loved and who supported her through thick and thin? Times were tough then, what with WWII going on and everything, and certainly not an easy time to be a mother, home manager, AND the bread winner! Well, when I heard that the Ford Company was hiring women to work in their airplane factory Ypsilanti, Michigan, I got my tush to that town straight away to apply for a job! It was called the Willow Run Aircraft Factory and soon I was one of their first women riveters. Boy was I proud! The work was hard, but after losing my dear husband and all..<sniff, sigh> well, I guess that stuff just makes a woman tough. And what choice did I have anyway? I couldn’t let my sweet little babies starve to death, no I could not! It was a tough time, those days with the loooong working hours, and boy was I tired when I came home in the evening to cook dinner. But we made it through…The pay was good for that job- well, better than the pay for staying at home, which is no pay at all when you don’t have a husband out working to buy you bread! If I had been a man, I would have been paid more…I was making about $31.20/week in those days, and at the same time the men in the industry, doing the same work, would make $54.65! Can you imagine? That’s over $20 more! Well, the world ain’t fair, is it? And what can we do? Well, I ain’t saying it didn’t make me mad- boy oh boy, some days when the sweat was running down my brow and my fingers were hurting, and I knew that I was working just as well as any man, that’s when I would get angry! Not that there were many men in the factories in those days. Most the men were out fighting in the war! The factories, Willow Run and others, were filled with women in those days. We knew we were being jiped, but what could we do about it? Sometimes the only thing that would get me through those days was just knowing that I was doing something to help out my country. My dear friend Sally, her husband was killed over there in Europe. Positively devastating. It’s one thing to have your husband die in a car accident, but another to have him killed in the war. So much honor to die for this great country, but his murderer is out there somewhere- can you imagine! War is positively terrible. Sure, it’s because of the war that I had this job, but I tell you what- it does not make me love war. Not even one bit!
As I said, the factories were filled with women in those days. It was a good time for us, after so long of staying in the home. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that, but we all felt strong, courageous, important for doing a man’s job. That’s where the poster came in. It takes a whole country to fight a war, especially that World War, and to help promote the effort of each citizen, a man named Walter Pidgeon (he came all the way from Hollywood, can you imagine?) came to the Willow Run factory. He had already made the famous “Rosie the Riveter” poster with the picture of another pretty little girl who he found in a different factory. When I met him, he was looking for a woman to appear in a film about women in the war effort. And can you imagine, he asked little ol’ me to appear in the motion picture! I guess he thought I was attractive and maybe a little inspiring, what being a widow and all, and I was more than happy to be in his film. Encouraging other women to get involved was, after all, an important task. And what better and newer way was available to spread word in those days than by a real motion picture!
Well, when the war was over and the men came home, most American women went back to the home to have more babies and cook delicious suppers for their husbands- the ones who were lucky enough to make it home. But not me. I still had children to feed. So first I drove a cab car, but then I wanted to be my own boss. First I owned a beauty shop, then I started and ran a construction company called Rose Builders. After that beauty shop business, I guess you could say that I never went back to the typical “women’s jobs”! After years in the building business, I did something that I have truly always wanted to do: I became a pilot! I was the only woman in my flying club, but that didn’t bother me one bit. I was just happy to be flying! In 1978, something awful happened: I got in an airplane accident and lost an eye and a kidney! Can you imagine what must have had to happen to lose such opposite pieces! Well, I don’t regret doing “dangerous” things- boy oh boy, I just loved flying. Loved it till the day I dyed, in 1997. “