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Rosies: Women pioneers

During World War II, while millions of American men were gone to military duty, a change altered U.S. society.  Young women who previously had been restricted to the home took industrial jobs to help power the war mobilization.

A 1942 hit song hailed "Rosie the Riveter," and a wartime poster showed a capable female with rolled-up sleeves.  Rosies also performed many other types of war work, helping run railroads, make explosives, even grow food on farms.

"Six million women worked on the home front," one report says. "Rosies did hundreds of kinds of jobs."

Their rush to the workplace helped set the stage for postwar women to find careers outside the home. Society was transformed -- a shift that still is snowballing.

For decades, the role of World War II women was partly forgotten, but a West Virginia organization, Thanks! Plain and Simple, launched a bandwagon to spotlight them. The group is headed by Anne Montague, whose mother in Huntington had been a Rosie crafting lenses.

This movement has tracked down dozens of West Virginia women, now around 90, who performed wartime work. National television shows have filmed them. St. Albans created a roadside park in their honor. A documentary movie featured them. Gov. Tomblin proclaimed Rosie the Riveter Day. The Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington installed a wall honoring Rosies.

Now the West Virginia effort is spreading nationwide. Government officials in Britain and Belgium publicly thanked America's Rosies for their vital contributions.

Time marches on, and the generation of aged Rosies is slipping away.  It's good that this recognition is occurring while many still are alive.


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