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Women workers of WWII honored in Labor Day ceremony

The National Parks of Boston hosted a ceremony on Monday at the Charlestown Navy Yard in honor of the thousands of women who stepped into jobs held by men during World War II, known as “Rosies.” PHOTO BY HALEY LERNER/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Several proud female WWII workers, nicknamed “Rosies,” after the historic female icon, Rosie the Riveter, gathered with their families at Charlestown Navy Yard Monday for a celebration of their contributions to the war effort. The Boston National Historical Park hosted the ceremony in honor of the strength of women on Labor Day.

The celebration, titled Ring a Bell for Rosie, included a brief bell ringing ceremony on board the USS Cassin Young, a United States Navy destroyer ship. Approximately 40 people attended the ceremony, which coincided with more than 36 others taking place around the country.

During the bell ringing ceremony, Maria Cole, a national park ranger and organizer of the event, said it is important to recognize the hard work of women during WWII.

“On the 75th anniversary year, we take a moment to ring a bell and to remember these hardworking women who helped win the war,” Cole said during the ceremony.

Following the bell ringing, the afternoon included a free walking tour that focused on the yard’s female workforce and a viewing of “SWON: Shipbuilding Women of the Navy,” a temporary exhibit at the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center.

Jim Finke, 91, of Charlestown, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He said going to the ceremony on the USS Cassin Young made him feel “nostalgic.”

Finke came to the naval yard to honor his mother, who was a factory worker during the war.

“My mother decided to quit her original job to be a worker to make pieces of airplanes,” Finke said. “She got herself into a higher level job because she had experience dealing with people and having that experience.”

After the ceremony, Cole said it is important that people share the stories of women and working class Americans who aided in winning WWII because those individuals will not be around much longer to tell their own stories.

“It was our manufacturing capability that enabled our armed services to have everything they needed in order to win the war,” Cole said. “It was a case of women and men in the civilian workforce pulling together to make that happen.”

He attributed the victory to the strength of the women tasked with building supplies for the troops.

“If the thousands of women across the nation hadn’t done that,” Cole said, “then we would not have been as strong, and it could have taken much longer, or it might have come out a completely different way.”

Another attendee, Janet Black, 75, of Charlestown, said coming to the event and celebrating Rosie the Riveter at the naval yard reminded her of her childhood.

“I remember the war, and my father worked here in the Navy yard, and it was all here,” Black said. “Rosie the Riveter I remember all the time. I remember the lunch box, I remember as a kid all the stuff that’s down here.”

Black said the strength of women back in the United States carried men through the war.

“If it wasn’t for the women, they wouldn’t have been able to win,” she said. “That’s what it comes down to. If they weren’t here to do it, it wouldn’t have been done.”

Janet’s husband, Wayne Black, said women upheld the industrial industries throughout the war.

“[Women] built so many ships for the country for World War II,” Black, 81, said. “They supplied [items for] England. They supplied the Soviet Union with tankers, trucks [and] vehicles to help them fight the war.”

Thomas Fuller, 64, of Woburn, said he attended the ceremony because he is interested in U.S. history and that he is in awe of actions of working women during WWII.

“I think the women were incredible,” Fuller said. “They had to do it. There was no one else, so thank goodness they let them step up and do that. It certainly wasn’t the way of the time for women to be working and assuming manufacturing jobs.”

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