ROSIE, THE RIVETER - REVISITED
from Women's Work
This story was inspired by a quote from a woman who worked at Boeing during World War II. She said, ..“the day the war ended, every woman in there GOT IT. Leadman came 'round and says, 'Frances, tonight you can hang your torch up, your job's done; the war is over.' And on that day I picked up a piece of scrap iron and lit my torch and wrote my name on it. That was in 1945. This is my proof for my grandchildren and great grand-children that I really was a burner in the wartime.” (Washington Women's Heritage Project).
My mother, Jean Barkley, was a Rosie during WWII, driving a truck at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

©Linda Allen 1984

My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
that sailed to war
My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
and what was that all for?

In l94l, the war had just begun
Jim was so young, but soon was off to hold a gun
I was nineteen, our child was only three
When the papers said the shipyards needed me

I moved to Bremerton in l942
I learned to weld, I was the best one on our crew
The work was hard, the heat would burn my lungs all day
But when the paycheck came we girls would feel OK

In l943, in August, 8AM
I'd not been feeling well, my mind was filled with Jim
There was a knock, a man in uniform stood there
He said my Jim was dead - I hadn't seen him in two years

In l945 the war came to an end
And on that very day, the big boss he came in
He smiled and said, "My girls, the boys are coming home
You've earned a rest - go home - your work here now is done"

Picked up a scrap of metal, and I carved my name full bore
So my child would know I was a welder in the war
No place to go, I was a widow with a child
So I waitressed and I cooked, and I married in a while

Sometimes I see that scrap with my name carved in so deep
And I recall the day the boss told me to leave
How I felt like some old rag they'd tossed aside
As useless as my patriotic pride

My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
that sailed to war
My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
And what was that all for?