Home Front – Dot the Welder

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The legend of “Rosie the Riveter” has inspired romantic ideas about American women doing their patriotic duty during World War II.

But for Dorothy Kelley, the motives were more personal. Recently divorced, she was raising four children on her own. And after seeing women from the shipyard cashing $600 checks, she traded a job at a Montgomery Ward department store for long nights of welding.

Kelley — called “Dot” — built ships in Portland, Me., working at the South Portland Shipyards from 1942 until it closed in 1945.

Recently, Dorothy’s daughter, Joyce Butler, visited StoryCorps to remember her mother’s life in those days. Wearing overalls and heavy clothes against the cold, Kelly and the other women wriggled into the ships, welding ship’s seams together in tight spaces.

Injuries were part of the job, Butler recalls. She says her mother’s neck and chest became “all spotted with burn marks, from the sparks.” She worked nights, so her days could be free for her children.

Joyce Butler and her daughter Stephanie, Portland, ME

Joyce Butler and her daughter Stephanie, Portland, ME

Butler says that after the war ended, her mother was forced to work two jobs, and her children were sometimes left to fend for themselves at home.  “But still, she was determined to keep us together as a family,” Butler says.

Dot Kelley lived to be 94 years old.

Produced for ‘Morning Edition’ by Michael Garofalo. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.

Some 6 million women worked in manufacturing jobs during World War II. They were known as “Rosies,” after the iconic image of a woman in work clothes, flaunting her muscles, who appeared in recruitment posters, in a popular song, and in a Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Listen to “Rosie the riveter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CQ0M0wx00s

The Four Vagabonds sing “Rosie the Riveter” by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, from early 1943

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Home Front Humor – 

off the record 1942 housing shortage wwii

“Housing shortage or no housing shortage – that’s going too far!”

Sign at the Brooklyn Navy Yards

Sign at the Brooklyn Navy Yards

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elizabeth Patterson Allner – Baltimore, MD; “Rosie” for Martin Marietta Corp and intelligence, WWII, ETO

Elisabeth Baril – Warren, MI; “Rosie” at plane assembly plant, WWII

Rebecca Barker – Nashville, TN; “Rosie” for aircraft salvage, WWIIflag04

Pearl DeMayo – Kansas City, MO; an actual riveter on B-29 bombers, WWII

Audrey Holsinger – South Bend, IN; “Rosie” on B-29 aircraft parts, WWII

Vera Baker Larson – Seattle, WA; “Rosie” on B-17s, WWII

Ruth Nave Merryfield – PA; “Rosie” at Detroit aircraft plant, inspector, WWII

Rose Tangredi Ozark – Syracuse, NY; “Rosie” made machine-gun triggers, WWII

Doris Smith – Ladysmith, WI; “Rosie” in ship building, WWII

Mary Tanberg – Great Falls, MT; “Rosie” at B-24 construction, WWII

Katherine Tabee Yates – Vallejo, CA; “Rosie”   submarine worker on Mare Island, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 18, 2016, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 90 Comments.

  1. Another great post! What w/ long-range ballistic capability these days, we have no guarantee there will never be a war fought on American soil. Let us hope and pray the qualities that saw us through in the past — both on the battlefront and the home front — have not been lost. It is vital that stories like these be preserved. They are an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Housing shortages became universal. In my early years, I thought that, ‘YOU go and look for accommodation!’ was an unutterably unspeakable insult, from hearing incensed parents hurling it at one another.

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    • Yes, most of the world felt the effects of the Great Depression, but that generation was strong enough to eventually survive it and then a world war.

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  3. $600 checks over 70 years ago–that was quite a bit of money!

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  4. Oh, how the media has DEVOLVED since then! Women stepped up, nuff said. Nothing suggestive or pandering, just women working on big machines. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post about women on the home front. Their hard work deserves to be recognized.

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  6. I really enjoyed learning the background of Dorothy Kelley, GP — great post, as always.

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  7. I remember seeing stuff in some of my emails years ago that the character “Dottie”, played by Geena Davis, was named after Dot. It was just coincidence, of course. The real “Dottie” played a catcher in the women’s league and had a helluva arm.

    Two good friends of mine living up in WA had mothers who were Rosie the riveters. One worked inside the wings because of her small size.

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    • I remember the movie, seen it more than once actually, “A League of Their Own” – great flick! This Dot was used to represent all those others who created the backbone for the troops. Thanks for coming by, Koji.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That video explains the whole contribution those Girls gave to the War effort, amazing Woman.Excellent look at behind the scenes of the production lines during those hectic days.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Those women were truly amazing for their stamina! I just hope that the readers understand that I used Dot as an example of so many around the world that comprised the backbone of the Allies.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. These women gave up a lot to help their families as well as their country. Thanks for keeping them in the news, GP!

    I planted the redwood trees yesterday, including Michael’s tree. 5 in total, all have names. All are someone’s loved one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My mother and her best friend riveted together in Rock Island, Illinois, working on airplanes. I can’t remember which plane it was now — I should have written it down, and never did. But she enjoyed the work, and took great pride in it her whole life. It grieves me to see so many young women today obsessing over their supposed “victimhood,” rather than accomplishing what those gritty women of my mother’s generation did, almost as a matter of course. I’m glad I was raised by her, and absorbed her values, as well as those of my father.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your thoughts and mine about the current generation are exact! When I think about what our parents’ generation went and then still had the grit to accomplish all they did – the current generations coming up should be ashamed of themselves! (not all of them mind you, but you know what I mean).
      Thank you for including your mother’s story here.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for recognizing the women welders.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure, Mary. But please realize that I used Dot as an example of the women that made up that generation. They raised families, worked and did without so much while the men were gone – strength personified!

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  12. Just one plus that women brought to the war effort–small size to fit into smaller spaces.

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    • As I’ve commented to a few readers, the women were the backbone of nations – without them, the troops would have had far more problems!! Thanks for coming by.

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  13. Very nice post remembering a determined, hardworking, patriotic, responsible woman. I love and admire her grit. Wish there was more of that around these days…

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  14. a big thank you to Dot and to all women who did such great things… my great aunt drove a truck that time, it’s hard to imagine, I know her just like a friendly old lady who loves to knit, but she really did it :o)

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    • That generation was truly something!! This was only an example of the millions of other women, like your great-aunt, who comprised the backbone of nations!!

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  15. Wow. What a story. Great writing.

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  16. I think I’ve seen “Rosie” in one of Madonna’s posters. I didn’t know that Madonna was portraying the “riveter”.

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  17. I remember hearing about her. She was a inspiration and so glad that she lived a good number of years. Great post, Everett!

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  18. My first introduction to the extraordinary contribution civilian women made to WWII was through the documentary ‘The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter.’ It’s still one of my favourite films. Thanks for reminding me it must be time to watch it again 😀😀

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  19. Sue Marquis Bishop

    Loved it!

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  20. Really enjoyed this post GP . . . having lived and worked in Portland, ME for many years, it was great reading about this special lady. Here’s to all the amazing Rosie’s worldwide that played such an important role during WW2.

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  21. Another super post. My mom worked in the engine testing facility at willow run airport in Detroit. She also worked nights.

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  22. $600 was a pretty big check in those days. But it sounds like they earned every penny of it.

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  23. An inspiring, personal story.

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  24. I very much admire the Rosies of WWII — such strength and stamina. I loved your post!

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  25. Awesome post, GP. It wasn’t easy for anyone as your tribute testifies.

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  26. Great story and remind who contributed to the effort.

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  27. What a heartwarming story. An amazing woman. 🙂

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  28. Without them, we simply couldn’t have won.

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  29. I love this! This is exactly the story of my “Gramcracker.” Recently divorced, with 3 small children and an 8th grade education she was fortunate to get hired on at “The Rubber Company” (Uniroyal) as a 3rd shift inner-tube inspector. She worked while the kids slept. What a generation of amazing people. She passed when she was 92

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Well done to Dot. 94 is a great age, and she deserved that.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  31. Life expectancy seems to have increased for women who worked hard (and survived) the war!

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  32. Nice piece GP….We can never forget the sacrifices American Men and Women made on BOTH sides of the Atlantic and Pacific during WW2.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I appreciate your loyalty to their memory!

    Like

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