March 28, 2010
Like many people, I guess, I frequently brood over the questions I should have asked when I was a kid. One category that came to mind today is related to my father’s work in an aircraft assembly plant during World War II. All I know is that Dad was not drafted into military service, but was assigned to work at the Curtiss-Wright Corp., I presume in Caldwell. He was 29 years old when my brother was born in 1941, and his age might have had something to do with his exemption. He told me that he worked in my family’s grocery store during the day and at Curtiss-Wright at night, but how long he worked at the plaht and what he did, I didn’t ask. Along about 1976, it became too late. I can’t blame it on the ignorance of youth, either; by the time Dad died, I was in my 30s, and I still hadn’t asked.
Fortunately, most people are smarter than I am, including some filmmakers who are tracking down women who worked in the defense industry during the war — the fabled labor force that shared the sobriquet “Rosie the Riveter.”
I saw a note on the web site of the Detroit Free Press indicating that the filmmakers plan to visit Michigan next month looking for women in that state who had supported the war effort by building aircraft and manufacturing munitions and other matériel. This is a project of New York University’s Tamiment Labor Archives; it’s explained in some detail at THIS LINK.
Several years ago, a project in Morris County, here in New Jersey, conducted several lengthy interviews with women who had been part of the Rosie brigade. The interviews, and photos of those women, are available at THIS LINK.
The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in 1942 in a song by that name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. In poking around on this subject, I also learned that the women who did this indispensable work have been commemorated in the Rosie the Riveter Charter High School in Long Beach, Calif., a school that gives girls an opportunity to learn non-traditional trades.