‘Rosie the Riveter Day’ recognizes service and sacrifice during WWII

Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office
Story by Master Sgt. John Hughel

Date: 03.23.2018
Posted: 03.23.2018 22:39
News ID: 270490
'Rosie the Riveter Day' recognizes service and sacrifice during WWII

PORTLAND, Oregon – At the height of WWII, as hundreds of thousands of men, headed off to war, almost as many women volunteered on the home front. They worked in factories and shipyards to produce planes, tanks, ships, and armaments to keep up with the war effort.

Leaving behind their traditional roles in the home, these women forged new skills while helping ensure victory and peace around the world, and in the process, became forever known as “Rosie the Riveter.”

On March 21, 2018, as part of a nationwide campaign designated by Congress, Portland and seven other sites throughout Oregon, celebrated “Rosie the Riveter Day,” as nearly 100 members of the Portland community paused to honor their spirit of service and sacrifice at the Portland International Rose Test Garden.

“It’s only fitting that on the first day of spring, as we plant the Rosie the Riveter rose,” that we can recognize the courage, shared-sacrifice, and can-do attitude of those women,” said Barbara Jensen, chairwoman and founder Oregon Spirit of '45.

The Rose the Riveter Rose strain was specifically created to honor these hard-working WWII women. When it blooms, this flower has a vibrant coloring of orange-gold accented with pink and gold.

Flanked by Jensen and members of the Portland Royal Rosarians [the official greeters and ambassadors of Goodwill for the City of Portland], two honorary Rosies, dressed in traditional attire, planted the new rose, creating a living memorial to all those Rosies.

“By creating this memorial with today’s ceremonial planting, we honor not only those women who served our nation more than 75 years ago but all those who follow in their footsteps,” said Jensen.

There are few public records that document the labor contribution to the war effort by an estimated 15 million women during the 1940’s, as women took on the work in factories and assembly lines; all the while, redefining the roles that many women had prior to the war.

The iconic Rosie the Riveter poster and other images of women at work, ‘pinning up their hair and rolling up their sleeves’ while supporting the war effort, became the symbol of American feminism as women gaining economic power.

As part of National Women’s History Month, the ceremony paid honor to this lineage of women who broke those traditional working roles while serving their country at a critical time in history.

The honorary chairwoman for the Garden project, Elinor Marie Ott, age 98, worked as a riveter from 1942 to her 95th birthday. In a press statement prior to the nationwide ceremonies, she stated, “we hope that our example will inspire a new generation of 21st century Rosies who can succeed in the high technology workplace of the future.”

Although she was dressed in vintage Rosie attire for the ceremony, Ada Wyn Parker was the first woman to be hired at the Alameda Air/Navy base at the age of 17, and soon she convinced her sister Naomi Parker Fraley to apply. When not building aircraft, they participated in recruiting projects, promoting recruiting and safety at the base.

On behalf of that next generation of Rosies was Adeena Rose Wade from Battle Ground, Washington, who helped Ada Wyn Parker plant the ceremonial rose. Over the past two years, Wade has represented the Rosie the Riveter “Yes We Can” attitude at events around the region, evoking WWII history and the history of Vanport, Oregon. Vanport was a wartime housing development, also known as Kaiserville, where shipyard workers lived. It was Oregon’s second largest city when it flooded in 1948.

“I’ve been able to talk to various groups about our unique history from the war years with nearly 30,000 Rosies working in the Kaiser shipyards, to the devastation and displacement of the Vanport floods that later followed,” said Wade.

But one doesn’t have to go too far (from the International Rose Test Garden) in Portland to find other enthusiastic Rosie supporters. A group of Portland Thorns Football Club (FTFC) devotees proudly proclaim the name, 'Rose City Riveters', honoring those shipyard workers from the past, while emulating their tenacious spirit that still lives on today.