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Rosie the Riveter Still Riveting at 93

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Rosie the Riveter Still Riveting at 93
[ Life]

Elinor Otto, 93, was one of the original “Rosie the Riveter” girls, celebrated in the popular song and poster of the same name. She first joined the workforce as a single mom in 1942, piecing together planes at Rohr Aircraft Corporation in Chula Vista to support the war effort. “Rosies” were women, left behind, who supported the war effort by filling tens of thousands of jobs because able-bodied men had joined the fighting overseas. They did what they had to do to support the boys fighting overseas, and they still had families to feed, after all.

NBC reports that Elinor gets up at 4 a.m. each morning and drives to the Boeing plant in Long Beach, California, and after her coffee and newspaper, begins at 6. She spends her days inserting rivets into the wing sections of C-17 cargo planes. It’s a job she’s been doing at various aircraft assembly plants.

Jobs were hard to find in wartime, and didn’t pay very well. Otto’s first job paid 65 cents an hour, about $38 less than she makes now. On top of that, she had to pay $20 a month for her son’s childcare. She soon discovered that she enjoyed the work and she was earning enough to support herself and her son. She says she loved the routine, the camaraderie, and going to the dance hall on the weekends to meet her friends from work.

“It was ballroom dancing,” she remembered, her blue eyes shining at the memory. “I liked that.”

“We were part of this big thing,” Otto said. “We hoped we’d win the war. We worked hard as women, and were proud to have that job.”

But, when the war ended, the “Rosies” disappeared also, and when the boys came back, it left some women, like Otto, with no job and bills to pay. She got out there and tried new things, but office jobs didn’t appeal to her, and she spent a short time as a carhop, until she was informed that she would have to wear roller skates.

Then, luckily, Southern California came out of the war with a booming aircraft industry and Otto’s skill with a rivet gun brought her back into the game, and she’s been there ever since.

“I’m a working person, I guess. I like to work. I like to be around people that work. I like to get up, get out of the house, get something accomplished during the day,” she said.

She is there because she is still good at what she does said her boss, Don Pitcher. “When I think to myself, ‘Why am I slowing up? Why am I home?’ I think that ‘Elinor is at work. And Elinor is 93!’”

Otto was recently honored when Rosie the Riveter Park, next to the site of the former Douglas Aircraft Co. plant, was opened. The plant is where many women worked during World War II, according to LA Times.

It celebrates not only the Rosie the Riveter era, but the later women’s empowerment movement propelled by the slogan attached to the iconic Rosie wartime poster, ‘We Can Do It!’.

“She says, ‘We can do it!’ and I’m doing it!” Otto said, flexing her thin arm and laughing, mimicking the iconic poster.

If she were younger, she jokes, she would look at herself now and wonder, “What’s that old bag still doing here?”. She says she will be working as long as she can, but it will probably only be until sometime next year when Boeing finishes off its last contract for those C-17 cargo planes.

“I’ll be the one that closes the door,” Otto said. “I’ll be the last one there.”

Image via youtube

Rosie the Riveter Still Riveting at 93
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  • Linda

    My mother worked at LTV and retired from there. She was a riveter, although she did not work there until the ’60′s – 70′s.

  • john pruett

    We need a bunch more people like Elinor in this country these days. Just like my parents, who grew up on farms in the Depression, had to work in order to eat. Whatever happened to that idea? Democrats?

    • bbb

      Actually, yes, it was Democrats, as in Roosevelt, who put everyone to work in the Depression.

      • http://yahoo nicola iacovetti

        YES IT WAS CALLED W P A AND MEN YOU GOT 60 DOLLARS A MONTH FOR CHIPPING THE JUNK OFF OF BRICKS.. WHILE THEY STOOD THERE ON THE CURBS AND IT WAS KIND OF A JOKE TO SEE MY UNCLE DOING THAT BECAUSE HE WAS REALLY LAZY, AND WE WERE NOT AT WAR YET,, ALL THOSE PROGRAMS. WPA, NRA, AND SOME WERE I’M TOLD WERE AGAINST THE LAW, BUT IT DID NOT STOP FDR.. AND I MUST SAY THAT HE WAS NOT REALLY LIKED BY TILL HE BROUGHT BACK DRINKING AND MADE IT LEGAL.. AND THE COUNTRY HASN’T BEEN THE SAME SINCE!

    • D. Alan Curry

      Ueah, they were Democrats. Are Democrats. Some of them were/are probably socialists. What about it ?

    • Kathy Thompson

      The Democrats at that time were different from the democrats that now occupy the party. The dems today talk the “I’m for the everyday man” but never back it up with action; just the opposite. The democrats that are in the party now are socialist/communist types, that do not have the back bone of America at heart, they are more into marxism. If you notice that since they have come into power, half of the country depends on government subsidies and get nothing back. In the 40′s during the WWII, the citizens in America had pride,in their country,their abilities and quality. What we have now is “give” me a check,and the ideology of being take care of by government. It is BIG government vs the mentality of the “get it done” mentality of the generation of 40″s. That is why we have no jobs,and low paying jobs that keeps us in perpetual subsistence.

      • Aaron Ververs

        ‘Cause you were THERE, right, Kathy?

        • BR549

          truth hurts Aaron

        • Lee Robinson

          And so was I!!! Lee Robinson W. Palm Beach

      • Lee Robinson

        Hi Kathy. Right on! But todays Republicans are for the rich, as before. Today, my SS no longer makes it. I’m 87.5, with a busted, non-repairable, rotator cuff in my right shoulder, working in my little workshop to earn a few extra bucks. My wife is now 92 and blind, but spry and bowls up a storm even though she can no longer see the pins!Now they want to take away more of the SS! I got my social security number at 16 when I went to work in a shipyard building LSTs.
        Lee Robinson W. Palm Beach.

    • Lee Robinson

      Right on, John! I too grew up in the 30s and the depression. My Dad was laid off from the Pa. RR, and my mother worked as a bookkeeper for a lumber company, salary 12 bucks a week!! Dad worked various part time jobs until the war stuff started up, and he was called back to the RR and worked there until he retired at 65. Lee Robinson West Palm Beach.

    • Carol

      Yes, Democrats. Their motto is “Handouts for all!”

  • David

    My Dad retired at 89. His job was somewhat less physically demanding, though. Have to give Elinor a lot of credit …

  • HALO101st

    Looking back to REAL women. The whiny, foul-mouthed, gender confused, wannabe women of today must look back in awe and envy at those women of the 1940′s whose husband were gone for the duration, not six month deployments that they are so put upon to endure.

    • Carol

      Hey Hal, They don’t envy the women of that day and age….they don’t even have a clue that they existed….and I think that if someone clued them in, they’d just look back with disdain. “look at those stupid babes, don’t they know all they have to do is have a couple of kids and the government will take care of them?”

  • Torello Tacchi

    I’m and aircraft home builder and as such, I have to do a lot of riveting. One day my bride said that she could help “buck” rivets.
    So I gave her the bucking bar (the other half of riveting) and lo and behold, once the rivet is “bucked”, it is to perfect dimension, and rarely has to be measured. She is also an author, and reccently published her first book,

  • Ken

    My Mother who would have been in her thirties worked in the railroad yard round house servicing the steam locomotives and my Father worked in the steel mill, just up the tracks !

    • Lee Robinson

      BOY! Ken, it sounds like you lived where I did. I was raised in Freedom, PA, about 25 miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh.My Dad was an engineer on the Pennzy Railroad; his Dad was yardmaster of the Conway martialing yard, which, at one time, was the largest in the world. It ran through 4 towns! Up stream were steel mills of several kinds, J&L, Spang Chalfant, Latrobe Steel.
      American Bridge, which had a shipyard where I worked on LSTs! Later spent 3 years with the 11th AF, which was Army Air Corp when I joined. Where did you grow up? Lee Robinson W. Palm Beach, FL

  • Anthony Buiano

    good for her, youth of America should take a lesson from her, stop with the video game go out and be productive!

    • BR549

      Nowhere in the article does it say she was a single mom

      • Paula

        Sheeesh! How about reading the 2nd sentence of the article??? “She first joined the workforce as a single mom in 1942 …” Go Rosie, and all you other single moms out there working hard to support yourself & your family. And slightly off topic – It’s just too bad that there are so many single moms today. Our young men need to step up & do the right thing! And girls need to think more about the consequences of their actions and how the rest of your life can be determined by one impulsive act.

  • http://yahoo Bon Dport

    My mother worked as a riveter in Calif back then ~~ I wonder if there is a way to get info if of where and if she knew her or could possibly remember her?
    ?

  • Aaron Ververs

    Must be a mistake – America didn’t HAVE single moms back in 1942…

  • Robert

    You go, Girl!!

  • Rick

    WOW!! What else can you say about this woman! My mother worked for Chance Vought during the war while they were making WW11 fighters, then in the evenings and weekends down to the dance halls to dance with the soldiers who were on leave and recovering from wounds and also serving donuts! What a generation!

  • http://oxanddonkeyrelationshipcards.com Richard O.

    Aunt Jemima is over 123 years old and still working on the pancake box and nobody ever gave her a highfalutin park. Look up the video called ‘The Last Emancipation’ by Richard O. Jones. The play was about emancipating Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Cream of Wheat man from the cereal boxes. I would also like to write a play about Rosie the Riveter… I just might.

  • http://yahoo nicola iacovetti

    YES,, WHAT A DIFFERANCE FROM 1942,, THE WOMEN ALL GOT IN AND DID WHAT THEY HAD TO DO.. IT WAS INCREDIBLE TO SEE YOUR SISTERS ALL WEARING THOSE HEAD WRAPS AND GET MOVING IN THE MORNING TO GO AND WORK AT THE FACTORIES.. I AND MY BROTHER ENLISTED IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY AND WENT OFF TO WAR,, I LEFT MY SO-CALLED GIRLFRIEND, AND THEN WHEN I GOT TO FRANCE I GOT A “DEAR JOHN” LETTER.. BUT THAT WAS NOT WHAT WE WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR IT WAS TO DEFEAT THESE MISERABLE DICTATORS WHO TRIED TO CONTROL ALL OF US, AND OUR WAY OF LIFE. AMERICA WAS DIFFERNT THEN, WE WERE VERY LOYAL TO OUR COUNTRY AND WANTED TO GO TO WAR.. AT THE AGE OF 17, I WOULD HATE IT IF WE HAD TO REALLY GO TO WAR TODAY….WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE MILITARY THAT IS OUT THERE NOW, AND GOD BLESS THEM, THEY ARE GREAT..TOO MANY AMERICANS,I’M AFRAID HAVE HAD TOO MUCH FUN AND NOT ENOUGH WORK, AND CONCENTRATE WHAT WE REALLY STAND FOR.OUR FORM OF GOVERNMENT AND CONSTITUTION.. IT SEEMS LIKE ANYTHING GOES NOW.. WE ONLY THINK OF GETTING OUT AND HAVING A GREAT TIME, THAT’S FINE .. BUT EVENTUALLY IT CATCHES UP WITH YOU AND WE BECOME LAZY AND ONLY KNOW TV, AND PIZZA AND BEER.. THERE IS MORE TO LIFE AND WE AMERICANS BETTER WAKE UP AND UNDERSTAND THAT WE FOUGHT FOR OUR FREEDOM AND RIGHT TO FREE SPEACH.. IT SEEMS THAT WE ARE NOT THE SAME COUNTRY THAT WE WERE WHEN WE WERE ATTACKED AT PEARL HARBOR.. THE COUNTRY FELT THE REAL NEED,AND OFF WE WENT..NOW, IT SEEMS THAT WE ARE LOSING OUR RIGHT IN FREEDOM AND THE RIGHT TO BELIVE IN GOD AND PRACTICE WHAT WE BELIEVE IN? GOD HELP US IF THAT IS THE CASE,, WE WILL BE IN SERIOUS TROUBLE!

    • Crazy cat lady

      America isn’t the same as it was in Rosie’s day. If she was a single mom, it wouldn’t have been by choice as it is today. Moral standards were higher then.
      And I can’t see this nation pulling together in the same way as it did in the 40′s…too many of us are too busy looking for free handouts to be bothered saving the country. In the 40′s thru 80′s people were ashamed to let anyone know that they were poor…now it’s a badge of honor and the expectation of ‘free’ grows.

  • Laurie1957

    Sexist?! Really??!! So it’s not sexist to portray Rosie the Riveter doing a “man’s” job but it is sexist portraying her doing a “woman’s” job???!!! I think the Swiffer ad balances it all out and shows Rosie as a well-rounded and capable person who can do ANY job, and do it well. I know many men who use Swiffers, but that is not considered sexist. Get over it.

  • Jane Rodgers

    When I saw this on NBC it made me angry. While I certainly applaud Ms. Otto’s stamina and her war effort at the time, her retirement is long overdue and there are too many people looking for work now that need that job! Me for one! I could sure use the $40 an hour she is getting and can’t take with her when she passes. Too many older people hang on to jobs now in order to feel useful but don’t really need the money. Some of us (who don’t get handouts from the government) are suffering and need a ‘decent’ job in order to survive! “(Jobs were hard to find in wartime, and didn’t pay very well.” NEWSFLASH: They STILL are)!!!

  • Susan smith

    While I applaud her strength and desire to work and have something to do and accomplish during the day, I have to also say that right now in this country in these hard economic times, there are plenty of able bodied men and women who have families to support who have been looking for work for months and even yrs. who would be better served by a job making $38.00 and hr. It’s really time for the older generation to pass on the torch and let the younger, even middle-aged out-of-work men and women have those jobs. I’m sure her retirement/pension and social security would support her just fine. People are working longer these days, some out of necessity and some because they want to feel useful and productive, which is great but they can still feel useful at the minimum wage jobs that are plentiful. Families are hurting and need the $38.00 per hr job.

  • http://webpronews.com Paul

    Still working at age 93? Time to retire and get a life before it comes

    to an end. Retire and let a younger person who really NEEDS a job

    step into this position. Can’t afford to leave the workforce now at

    this time of your life? This must be due to poor planning on your

    part!!

    • ETD ETD

      @ Paul, Did it occur to you she plain ans simple likes working, who are YOU to tell her she should retire?? Also, does a person have to been a poor financial planner for them to work into their 90′s?? Where in the article did it said she works because she needs the money?? and if she in facts needs the money, did it occur to you that perhaps one of the many unscrupulous people our there loss her live saving for her??

      I work with elderly people whom have been thru things like that where they loss their live savings to the likes of wall street morons who care only about themselves and dont give a care about steeling from anyone!

      So get off your high and mighty horse and if you need a job go get it! there is plenty of jobs out there, but of course many of those jobs might not be what you and many young people feel you are entitle too! Remember, people like Elinor work in the job they had to work, not because they love it or was what they wanted but because they NEEDED a job and took what was offer to them!