'Rosie the Riveter' to be awarded Congressional Gold Medal

ByJason Beal Localish logo
Thursday, April 4, 2024
'Rosie the Riveter' to be awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Rosie the Riveter will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor a civilian can receive for their contributions to society.

RICHMOND, Calif. -- At 98 years old, Marian Sousa still loves retelling her journey as a "Rosie," working in the Kaiser Shipyards of Richmond, California during World War II.

"Women can accomplish a lot our logo is "We Can Do It!'" Says Sousa, "and we've shown that we can. You can do any kind of job that you really put your heart and hard work into."

Rosie the Riveter represents all of the women who worked to support the US military during World War II, producing munitions and supplies. Sousa helped build ships.

"Everybody wanted to contribute to the war effort no doubt about that," Sousa says, "but we did not know that we were actually starting this women's movement."

Tammy Brumley, a self-proclaimed "Rosie Wrangler" works closely with the Rosies to help keep their story alive.

"To see them talking to young people, young girls especially," Brumley says, "just helping them to understand you can do anything you want. You don't have to be limited by your gender, race, or sex."

And nearly 80 years after WWII, the "Rosie the Riveter" movement is still going strong in the Bay Area and across the country.

"It's been amazing to see the journey that these women have taken to work so hard on behalf of the Rosies story and keep it alive," says Brumley. "They're in their 90s, they deserve to rest, but they've been fighting hard to make sure people don't forget what they did during WWII."

"I continue to do this work," adds Sousa, "because I do like to meet people, and I want the story to hold up. It wasn't just a flash in the pan. This happened and just as we have veterans, now we have veteran Rosies."

One of the veteran Rosies was Marian's sister, Phyllis Gould. Phyllis was one of the first female welders hired at the Kaiser Shipyards to help in the war efforts.

"My sister was the real pioneer and she kept up the work," says Sousa. "She's the one who wrote for 12 years trying to get recognition for the women who worked on the home front. You know, there were 20 million women that worked, and she felt that we should be recognized just like veterans were."

The work paid off. Before her death in 2021, Phyllis visited the White House, pushed for the creation of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA and was the driving force behind major Rosie-related accomplishments.

"She wanted a Rosie the Riveter day," says Sousa. "And she said, 'they got it on the calendar, National Puppy Day. Why can't we have a National Rosie the Riveter day?"

"Phyllis Gould, her sister, and another Rosie by the name of Mae Krier each were trying to get a federal holiday called Rosie the Riveter Day," Brumley explains. "That failed, but most states recognize it, and Congress recognizes March 21st as Rosie the Riveter Day."

"March 21st," Sousa says with a smile. "Which just happened to be our mother's birthday. And of course it's in March, which is Women's History Month, very appropriate."

While they were working on that, though, they found out that all Rosies would be awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal.

"It failed the first time and that was a lot of hard work," Brumley recalls. "I thought they were not going to continue with it, but they are "We Can Do It" women, and they got right back and it passed in November 2020. We just now got our date for the ceremony in April, so well have about 30 Rosies converging on D.C. for the ceremony so were very, very excited."

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress awards civilians. It's awarded to those who have made major impacts on American history and culture.

"We're so happy that we are going to be able to see this medal that she and Mae Krier worked for," says Sousa. "I'm just very elated. My daughter is going to accompany me, and Phyllis' daughters are going too, so this will be great."

The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony will be held in Washington D.C. on April 10. Phyllis helped design the medal, which will be unveiled at the ceremony.