- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

About a dozen women who went to work in factories to support the U.S. effort during World War II attended a ceremony yesterday in which their sometimes-forgotten contribution was honored.

The ceremony, hosted by the Ford Motor Co., was held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Featured in the ceremony was a collection of letters, photos and other memorabilia from many of the thousands of women who joined the war effort as part of the 1940s labor force popularized by “Rosie the Riveter,” the iconic poster image of a woman flexing her bicep and proclaiming “We Can Do It.”

In 1941, Delana Close was rehearsing for a college performance of “Madame Butterfly” in Utah when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A year later, a friend persuaded her to move to California, where she worked at a plant making howitzer field guns.

“We wanted to do anything we could to help the war effort,” said Mrs. Close, 81, a widow who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Mary Louise Mohr’s late husband was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen — an all-black unit of fighter pilots from Alabama who gained fame for their exploits in the segregated Army Air Corps. While he was gunning down German planes, she was riveting airplane wings at a Ford plant in Detroit.

When asked yesterday what motivated her to join the labor effort, she replied: “Patriotism.”

“The main interest and thrust of my life was to help Uncle Sam,” said Mrs. Mohr, 81, who lives in Silver Spring.

Yesterday, Ford Group Vice President Anne Stevens praised the “Rosies” for taking on positions formerly thought impossible for women to fill.

“Their contribution to American history is immeasurable,” Miss Stevens said. “Their patriotism is absolutely beyond description.”

Academy Award-winning actress Sissy Spacek, who attended the ceremony, said she was “honored to be a part of recognizing these great women today.”

“Their hard work and sacrifice had no monument until today,” Miss Spacek said.

With help from the National Park Foundation, Ford Motor collected more than 7,500 stories and 150 artifacts, including photographs, uniforms and factory tools. The stories have been compiled into a book by women’s advocate and author Jennie Nash titled, “A Day With Rosie.”

The collection will be a part of the National Women’s History Museum’s new exhibit, “Partners in Winning the War,” which recognizes the contributions of all women during the war.

“We tried to acknowledge broadly what women did during World War II,” said museum President Susan Jolie.

After the exhibit closes this fall, all the stories and artifacts will be displayed at the new Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park, which will open in Richmond, Calif., in 2006.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen earlier this month introduced a “Rosie the Riveter” resolution to honor the women who worked on the home front. The Senate passed the resolution Monday; the House is expected to approve the bill by Memorial Day.

The National Women’s History Museum will hold an open house on Sunday to celebrate the opening of the exhibit during Memorial Day weekend.

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