My favorite photograph does not exist. It is a picture of my Grandmother, Vera Anderson, as a “Rosie the Riveter.”
The collection of old photographs passed on to me by my mother and to her by her mother and to her by her mother, contains many gems. I have shared many of my favorites from those photos–Grandma Vera Anderson in her baseball uniform; the whole clan of Andersons and Stouts in front of a farm house that still exists; my mother and her two brothers dressed up like fancy dolls when they were toddlers, the Anderson family during World War II….and many more.
But the photo that I have only in my imagination shows my grandmother as a Rosie the Riveter. You’ve seen the popular poster of Rosie, who went to work in factories building war materiel during World War II.
In a note from “Daddy Guy” (my grandfather) sent October 16, 1943 to my mother:
Later in the letter he says:
He and grandma did care for parks for a while. I remember going with them when I was a small girl. And Williamson refers to a man who roomed with them, and ran a factory putting together wooden boxes.
Since Grandma did not leave behind a picture of her in the slacks that my grandfather hated so much, I have to rely on a picture in words from her letters in 1943 to recreate her life as a Rosie the Riveter factory worker during World War II.
Daddy Guy had more reason to resent Grandma’s job than just the slacks. He almost had the job himself.
In late September or early October, Grandma wrote to mother:
However in the next letter we learn it is not to be. Grandma and Daddy Guy had closed the restaurant (pictured at the top of the page) when Daddy Guy had a severe heart attack. He had not had a regular job since then.
On October 16, Grandma tells Mother that she will start “school”–training for her new job–at the Goodyear Plant in Millersburg. At the age of 62, Vera Stout Anderson is becoming a “Rosie the Riveter.” Just a couple weeks after her husband was turned down because of his health, she has been hired. He writes his comments about slacks that you read above, and Grandma says:
Sunday night, Oct. 24:
Her factory work was not her only contribution to the war effort. [Delmar Alderman was the owner of the hardware store and good friend of my father. You can see his picture here.]
Even while working eight hours a day at the Goodyear Plant, Grandma was taking care of rooms she rented and she also worked some nights at the end of the week at the movie theater which was only three doors away from her house. She sold tickets.
Nov. 18 she writes:
Mon. Nov 29.
Note that Daddy Guy was promised sixty cents an hour when he applied for a job at the factory. After working two months and having a raise, Grandma is still only getting fifty cents an hour. The Rosie the Riveter revolution brought new jobs to women, but at a lower wage than men were paid. Women are still waiting for the satisfactory outcome of that particular revolution.
December 14, she proudly writes:
Apparently the working conditions are not ideal, as she writes in this December 20 letter:
Nowhere in her letters does she mention what she is working on. It is possible that since they were manufacturing parts, they really did not know what the final product was, but as I explained in this post, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation plant in Millersburg, Ohio, was making Corsair airplanes for the Navy.
It is also possible that Grandma was just being cautious. Everywhere, posters warned people not to give away where their servicemen were going, and in factories, the Rosie the Riveter gals were warned not to talk about what they were doing. These “Loose Lips Sink Ships” posters were not an abstraction to Vera Anderson, whose letters are filled with her concern for her son William J. Anderson, a SeaBee deployed to the Pacific.
Words and posters paint a picture of my Grandma in her role as Rosie the Riveter. I do not know how long she worked as a Rosie the Riveter, but as long as she was needed to help, she would be there.
UPDATE, April, 2022. I recently learned about an organization that honors Rosie’s. Rosietheriveter.net website will tell you all about it. I was so happy to be able to recognize the hard work my grandmother did to support the war effort. I encourage you to check it out if you have a Rosie in your family.