March 4, 2009
 
Remembering Women Who Served on the Home Front
Group Seeks to Interview 'Rosie the Riveter'
 

 
By Tony Rutherford
Huntingtonnews.net Reporter
 
Charleston, WV (HNN) – While most eligible men served overseas in the Armed Forces during World War II, the country’s war effort depended upon having enough equipment, whether planes or bullets. The circumstances sent many women to serve on the home front, taking training to learn factory jobs formerly held by soldiers.
 
These women working in war factories earned a collective nickname, Rosie the Riveter. In fact, Woody Williams, West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor recipient, noted that Senator Rockefeller recently “likened the hard work Americans must do at home in tough times to the work of ‘Rosie the Riveters.”
 
Thanks! Plain and Simple, a West Virginia non-profit corporation, non-political, organizations that helps unify West Virginians around men and women with post military experiences that can be beneficial at home.
 
Anne Montague, executive director, remembers her mother, the late Jessie V. Jacobs Frazier who worked at Polan Industries, just over the Wayne County line. Known as ‘the fill,’ the area separates Cabell County from Wayne, Huntington from Westmoreland, and now contains offices for West Virginia state workers.
 
“[Jessie] was beautiful, artistic, compassionate and very bright,” Ms. Montague, a Harvard University graduate said. “She explained the Depression to me in terms I am hearing today. We had an ice box, and she promised when the war was over, we would get a Frigidare.”
 
“She had 20/20 vision,” her daughter explained and at Polan Industries, she helped manufacture binoculars.
 
Unfortunately, Jessie Frazier died in 1983. Other former “Rosies” are now in their 80s or 90s. Thanks Plain and Simple would like to gather oral histories from still living women who worked during World War II. Huntington has a significant proliferation of war factories, including ACF, Sylvania, the Nickel Plant, Adell, and Owens Illinois to name a few.
 
The organization needs to hear from at least five former “Rosies” prior to April 1, 2009 in order to qualify for a $1,500 West Virginia Humanities grant. Previously, they applied, but were told, you might not be able to find enough women to tell their stories. So, prior to application, the executive director believes a minimum of five would satisfy grant requirements.
 
Although they would like to shoot video histories of the women, the group at this time does not have anyone with the necessary equipment. In addition, travel constraints could be too excessive. But, audio recordings can be made via phone.
 
Montague told of one woman who worked at a plant in Ceredo, W.Va. “We talked with her [at a party] in October 2007, the night we announced we were going to try to get a national monument. She “jumped” and unlocked her memories the very next day. We already missed one that we know about.”
 
In addition to passing away, the former riveters are losing their memories, so time is of the essence.
 
“We want to get as many interviews as possible before these women die,” Montague said. “We will try to utilize photos and other memorabilia , even deceased women, copied” for the WV Culture and History Archives. Interestingly, many “Rosies” returned to their house wife tasks when the war ended, but the movement served as a catalyst for later efforts of women to earn equal pay as men and work in trades often associated as male only.
 
Having penned the organization’s theme song, “West Virginia with a Wild Sweet Smile,” Montague hopes to unify the state by focusing on strengths, not weaknesses. The group’s other project would honor mothers, not just mom’s who lost a family member or who served in the military, but all mothers. Woody Williams and she consider the mother’s project eventually resulting in a national monument, national park, or another type of commemoration.
 
Both of the projects emphasize respect for West Virginia women.
 
“On March 4, we will march forth with the spotlight on two of our projects,” explained John Haulotte, a two-time Iraqi vet who worked for WVAH News. He leads the aforementioned Thanks Plain and Simple projects as part of a series service projects titled “Veterans Initiate Teamwork and Leadership at Hope (VITAL at HOME).”
 
Woody Williams explained that “John and I are ready to be examples of how military experience can be translated to projects that show the power of people. We’re more than 50 years apart, but we share the motivation to make what we can do count.”
 
Visit their web site at: http://www.thanksplainandsimple.org or call 304-776-4743 or 304-545-9818.



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