In Celebration of Women’s History Month (which ends today) I have, for your belated enjoyment, two articles from the Rosie the Riveter World War II / Home Front National Historical Park website. The Rosie the Riveter Trust has been compiling oral histories from those who were true to life Rosies back in the day. Here are contributions from two old-time welders – your great-grandmothers of the trade.
An excerpt from “Wartime Memories” by Katie Grant
“I worked the graveyard shift 12:00-8:00 a.m., in the shipyard. I took classes on how to weld. I had leather gloves, leather pants, big hood, goggles and a leather jacket. They said you weld like you crochet.
“Well, I did not know how to do that, but I could sew and make a neat stitch. We held the welding rod with one hand and the torch fire in the right hand. Placed the rod in a seam and melted it down in a small bead seam and brushed it off with a steel brush.
“They put me forty feet down in the bottom of the ship to be a tacker. I filled the long seams of the cracks in the ship corners full of hot lead and then brushed them good and you could see how pretty it was. The welders would come along and weld it so it would take the strong waves and deep water and heavy weight. I liked it pretty good.
I don’t remember how much I got paid for working. Lots of people came to Richmond to work in the shipyards. Lots of women went to work to help with the war. I told Melvin later that I helped to make a ship for him to come home in.”
The following woman’s entry has to be my favorite. Why? We share the same names. Her first and last our my first and middle. Perhaps we are somehow related?
A Wartime Poem and a Recipe
This poem by Irene Carlisle was published in the Saturday Evening Post on February 3, 1945
by Irene Carlisle
Slowly upon the ways the gray ships rise,
The hammers ring on forepeak, hold and keel.
Under our gloved hands and hooded eyes
The blue arc stitches up the patterned steel.
Over the hulls, between the clanging cranes,
We climb and kneel and seam the ships together,
Women are always sewing for their men,
It tides the heart through many a bitter weather.
The chattering rivets button up the shell,
The waiting bay is laced with windy foam,
The molten stitches glow beneath my hand,
This is the ship on which he may come home.
Irene Carlisle was a welder at Moore Shipyard in Oakland, California while her husband was in the navy during the war. She is now living in El Cerrito, California. This poem seems so appropriate for recognizing the contribution of the thousands of women who build the ships and planes.