During World War II, my grandfather worked as a welder in the Portland Naval Shipyard. My grandmother worked beside him – perhaps literally – as a ship welder’s helper. Her job was to mark where the welds were to be made. Together they embodied the war effort, uniting with others of all nationalities and histories to work for the common good. But she was also something special because she was one of the women who stepped into jobs traditionally filled by men on behalf of a nation in need. I have always been so proud of her. And I am proud to be part of a tradition of women who are willing to step up and get things done.
My grandparents, Adella and Americo DeAngelis, shortly before my grandmother began working as a Rosie.
Many years ago I told my husband that my grandmother was Rosie the Riveter. I thought the “figuratively” was implied. Years later, I learned that he thought I was being literal – that my grandmother was the Rosie the Riveter model – and he had bragged to countless people about it. Whoops!
Rosie the Riveter was actually a compilation of many women – women like my grandmother – who joined the war effort and were able to push against the cultural boundaries that limited women.
I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the Rosies out there: women who have led the way for other women in areas where we are too commonly shut out. Pittsburgh has a long history of Rosies, such as marine biologist and author Rachel Carson. Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, opened the nation’s eyes to the dangers of the pesticide DDT. And Therese Rocco, the city’s first Assistant Police Chief. We have many modern day Rosies, too, including:
- Heather Lyke and Sandy Barbour, respectively, the Pitt and Penn State athletic directors
- Marita Garrett, who was just elected Mayor of Wilkinsburg
- Patricia Beeson, Provost of the University of Pittsburgh
- Christina Cassotis, Chair of the Board of the Allegheny County Airport Authority
Who am I missing? I know there are many more out there. Find me on Facebook and share your tribute to a local – or personal – Rosie.