Meridian Star

Local News

April 6, 2013

Rolling up their sleeves

MERIDIAN — Tens of thousands of women were called upon and responded when during World War II America needed its young men for battle.

    Filling the void of factory jobs and other tasks left behind by those men who fought against the German and Japanese aggression, women got down and dirty in many cases working to build airplanes, tanks, jeeps, and ammunition. That period of the war spawned a new drive as women, who desperately sought equality in the workplace, proved once and for all they could do a man's job.

    One of the icons that emerged from this period was the campaign that encouraged women to leave their home ovens behind and to work the rivet guns, the drill presses and welders in the nation's factories. That campaign saw the image of women, dressed in overalls, hair fixed in a bun wrapped in a bandana, physically strong enough to handle what was once thought of as the work of men. What emerged was Rosie the Riveter, an image that inspired women from all over the nation to buckle down for the sake of their country.

    The women who served in those jobs and who helped win the war are, like their male counterparts who fought in far off lands, now dwindling in numbers. The nation is losing WW II veterans at a rate of 1,000 per day, according to some statistics. The American Rosie the Riveter Association, founded in 1998 by Dr. Frances Carter of Birmingham, Ala., is constantly searching for those women who served on the home front in jobs vacated by men.

    Mabel Wolford Myrick, of Kimberly, Ala., is a member of the association. When she was very young she took the place of a man at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. She says she was honored and happy to do the work as most women were. She says she knew she was providing a service to her country at a time when it was desperately needed.

    "Working in the Pentagon was really something back then," Myrick, now 87 years old, said. "Talk about activity. There was always something exciting going on. People going here and there and of course that is the way war is."

    Myrick said the American Rosie the Riveter Association is trying to locate women in Meridian and the surrounding area, who worked on the home front during WWII. Thousands of women worked to support the war effort as riveters, welders, electricians and as inspectors in plants. They sewed clothing and parachutes for the military, worked in ordnance factories, collected scrap metal and performed many other physically demanding jobs.

    "These women have stories of their WWII experiences that are of historical value and perhaps have never been told," says Myrick. "American Rosie the Riveter Association is in the process of collecting those stories to be placed in our archives."

    If you are a woman (or descendant of a woman) who worked during WWII, or if you are just interested in more information, please call the toll free number 1-888-557-6743 or e-mail americanrosietheriveter2@yahoo.com. You can also contact the organization at American Rosie the Riveter,  P.O. Box 188, Kimberly, AL., 35091.

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