- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

Sixty-two years ago, Thelma Snyder believed it was her duty to help equip her country to fight in World War II.

So after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the former school teacher from Kansas spent the following summer working on the assembly line, producing bombs for the nation’s military at an ordnance plant in Parsons, Kan.

“I felt we needed to produce supplies,” said Mrs. Snyder, 82, who lives in Carl Junction, Mo. “When the war was started, we didn’t have a lot to fight with.”

Mrs. Snyder later was transferred to press operator, where she manufactured pellets that went into the bombs she helped assemble.

“It wasn’t like it is today. We didn’t have all the supplies ready and waiting,” Mrs. Snyder said. “Everyone wanted to do their part and get the boys ready to go.”

Mrs. Snyder is one of the many women who will be celebrated this summer in an exhibit put together by the National Women’s History Museum. The exhibit will pay tribute to the women’s contributions during World War II.

The exhibit will run through late fall. It is located at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery.

Titled “Partners in Winning the War,” the exhibit depicts the experiences of women who served in military as well as civilian roles during the war.

“The concept of the exhibit is to recognize the fact that American women were partners in winning the war,” said Linda Snyder Denny, who is one of Mrs. Snyder’s daughters and a member of the executive board of directors for the National Women’s History Museum. She added that the United States had only the 17th largest military in the world before entering the war.

“Without women doing their part, the war wouldn’t have been successful. During World War II, more women worked outside the home than ever before,” Ms. Denny said. “Society has never been the same since.”

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton spoke at the opening and recognition ceremony yesterday, which was attended by volunteers and adult children whose mothers had helped with the war efforts.

Mrs. Norton said it is time to tell the women’s story.

“World War II involved an effort by everyone. The generation of women who accomplished so much, didn’t command attention and just did their part. It is time we tell the enduring story of the women of World War II,” Mrs. Norton said. “The war turned men’s work into women’s work. Women were America’s secret weapon.”

Florence Lowell Ringstad, 81, who helped repair damaged planes during the war, traveled from Seattle to attend the Memorial Day weekend ceremonies in the District.

“The men were all overseas and someone had to take care of business here at home,” said Mrs. Ringstad, who was in the uniform she had worn 60 years ago. “They couldn’t have done it without us.”

The jobs also were dangerous.

Ms. Denny said thousands of women were killed in the factories during the war and hundreds of thousands were permanently injured.

As for Mrs. Snyder, she went back to teaching in fall 1943 and began working for Boeing Aircraft in Wichita, Kan., in spring 1944.

She worked for the company’s accounting department until she married Staff Sgt. Kenneth Snyder, who was in the 144th Infantry of the Army’s 36th Division, on Feb. 3, 1945.

The couple had four children. Sgt. Snyder died in October 1996 at age 78.

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