Real Life Rosie the Riveters: Women on the Homefront in WWII

Hello Again, Friends!
Today, I want to continue celebrating Women’s History Month by sharing about Rosie the Riveters. And yes, Riveters being plural is intentional. Not only were there numerous renditions of Rosie the Riveter as seen in this fantastic video, but there were millions of real-life “Rosies” throughout the nation who answered the call to service on the Homefront.

Three “Rosies” posing for a picture before
work. The ladies are identified as Virdie
Gordon Reyes, Retha Maxine Warner, and
Ruth Gordon Davis. The Gordon sisters
were from Elkton, VA, but moved to
Baltimore during the war.

As the men went off to fight in World War II, there was a tremendous need for women to step up in their absence. Women, like those pictured in this photograph to the left from our archives, went to work in the factories that shifted from domestic to wartime production to supply the troops and ensure victory for the Allied nations against Nazi Germany and Japan.
In order to encourage women to fight, the U.S. government began a propaganda campaign starring “Rosie the Riveter” aimed at recruiting female workers for the munitions industry. Rosie the Riveter quickly became arguably the most iconic image of working women during the war.
Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. Bedford, VA was no exception. Many of the female family members of the Bedford Boys worked in local factories that produced supplies for their boys. The Belding Hemingway textile mill where Verona Draper, sister of Frank Draper, Jr., and Bettie Wilkes, wife of John Wilkes, worked to make rayon thread that was used for the manufacturing of parachutes. Frank Draper’s mother worked at the Rubatex factory where they produced insulation for aircrafts and submarines and hoses for gas masks. There was also Hampton Looms that produced material for military uniforms and coats. Women in Bedford also contributed to the war effort in their free time by going to the Bedford County Library to roll bandages. On June 6th, they rolled 9,000 bandages in addition to the 68,300 they rolled in May.
Hampton Looms today in Bedford, VA
Over the past few years as the WWII generation passes on, the importance of honoring our nation’s “Rosies” has garnered national attention– even that of the White House. These women’s service and support of the war were critical in winning the war, as well as integrating women into the workforce in the years following World War II.
Until Next Time,
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