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Wed, Nov 08, 2023

Surviving “Rosie the Riveter” Visits CAF B-24

Full Circle, Via 80 Years and a World War

In mid-October 2023, Grace (Janota) Brown—a woman whose work during the Second World War earned her the distinction of being known thereafter as one of the Rosie the Riveters so utterly indispensable to the Allied war effort—visited the Henry B. Tippie National Aviation Education Center (NAEC) for purpose of being interviewed by a Dallas news outlet.

During the war, Brown worked as a machinist in a Fort Worth, Texas plant operated by the Consolidated Aircraft factory. Her efforts contributed to the completion and fielding of the storied marque’s legendary B-24 Liberator heavy bomber—of which an astonishing total of 18,188 specimens were built between 1940 and 1945.

Brown’s interview was conducted within the Victor N. Agather STEM Innovation Hangar against the eminently apposite backdrop of Diamond Lil, the Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF’s) restored B-24 Liberator.

Brown was one of over three-hundred-thousand American women who worked, in the early 1940s, to sustain wartime production of U.S. combat aircraft. As the men by whom the early U.S. aviation industry was primarily populated enlisted in or were drafted into the U.S. armed forces, women such as Grace Brown were hired and trained by North American aircraft manufacturers, shipyards, ordnance makers, steel mills, and myriad additional manufacturing concerns germane to the war effort. Brown and her ilk were depended upon to keep wartime production consistent with wartime demand, and succeeded spectacularly at such.

In 1943, Grace Brown’s efforts at the Consolidated Aircraft factory were captured by a photographer and utilized by the U.S. Office of War Information to encourage women to contribute to U.S. wartime manufacturing production.

While victory over the Axis powers is attributable in large part to the resolve, skill, and heroism of innumerable U.S., British, Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, historians attribute the Allied victory primarily to the nonpareil manufacturing might of the United States—which, by dint of the conflict, earned the moniker, Arsenal of Democracy.

By way of origin story, the printing and reprinting of millions of J. Howard Miller’s We Can Do It posters propelled Rosie the Riveter from an inspirational image contrived solely to boost the morale of Westinghouse Electric’s female workers to an allegorical U.S. cultural icon.

Though little-seen during the war, the image was rediscovered in the early 1980s, widely reproduced, and plied to the promotion of feminist causes. As the decade of the ‘80s sped, in a Day-Glo blur, from the Iran hostage crisis to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the We Can Do It image steadily engrained itself in the American social-conscience, attaining such ubiquity that the United States Postal Service, in 1994, fashioned it into a first-class stamp.



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