‘Rosies’ reminisce about jobs, plan outreach
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, March 01, 2009
After spending a year designing blueprints for B-29 bombers during World War II, Harriet Frankel had a baby, took a few years off and came back to apply for a job at the Lockheed-Georgia plant in Marietta.
She was turned down.
“They said the war is over and we’re not hiring any women. I was so mad,” Frankel said —- still miffed today at the notion a woman wasn’t good enough to do a man’s job. But she went on to get a job as a commercial artist and eventually ran her own ad agency.
Frankel’s work during the war made her a “Rosie.” She’s now a member of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association —- an organization dedicated to women who were trailblazers, taking jobs in male-dominated fields when the men went off to war from 1941 to 1945.
She enrolled in a sheet-metal drafting course and then got a wartime job at Georgia Tech creating blueprints for B-29s. The bombers rolled off an assembly line at what was then the Bell Bomber plant in Marietta.
“I was the second woman in the engineering department to do production illustration for the B-29 bomber,” Frankel, now 89, said at a meeting of the Atlanta Rosie chapter Saturday in Decatur.
Frankel said she decided to join the war effort because her husband was “4-F” —- meaning he was rejected for military service because of physical reasons. She said she was determined to represent her family in the war effort.
She worked at Georgia Tech for a year until her pregnant belly “could no longer fit through the turnstiles.”
Atlanta Rosie President Billie Ruth Bird said her members hope to start a program in the schools to teach children about the women and their role in World War II.
National Museum of Patriotism Director Pat Stansbury spoke to the group Saturday. Stansbury said she is working with the group to create a Rosie Day at the museum.
“I’m very excited about the Rosies. Young girls in Atlanta need to know … it’s time for us to stand and time for us to serve,” she said.
It’s getting harder to find living Rosies to tell their story because of their age. But the Atlanta chapter had two this weekend.
At age 19, Kathleen Powell, was one of the youngest town clerks in South Carolina. Powell was an assistant to the town clerk when the war broke out, but then he was drafted.
“I did both jobs and … finally they decided I should take his job,” said Powell, now 88.
She worked there for three years but wanted to do more for the war effort.
“My mom took grease” to a local defense plant, she said. “There were piles of metal stacked in the town. Everybody was involved and wanted to be involved.”
So Powell got on a bus to the air base in Greenville, S.C., and became the cashier in charge of the PX and other money-generating operations at the base. Her husband, Kenneth Powell, whom she met and married after the war, was flying B-17s in the 401st Bomber Group.
She’s excited about promoting the history of Rosies.
“It’s important that we know what we’ve gone through,” Powell said. America’s women, she added, “went in and did what they could do.”