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Reunion of Real-life ‘Rosie the Riveters’ in D.C. Earns Prestigious Civilian Award

A bustling downtown Washington, D.C., hotel was filled with enthusiastic energy on Wednesday morning as numerous women, adorned in red and white polka-dotted shirts and scarves, along with their caregivers, gathered in the lobby to meet each other and confirm the day’s agenda.

In the lobby, a group of women displayed a table adorned with images of Rosie the Riveter, the iconic symbol of female empowerment during World War II. Rosie the Riveter represented the millions of women who took on roles in factories and shipyards previously held exclusively by men, contributing significantly to the U.S. war effort.

Unlike the traditional recruitment poster where Rosie proclaims “We Can Do It!”, the speech bubble above her head in this particular image read “We Did It!”

A significant moment awaited the group as 98-year-old Jeanne Gibson, proudly wearing her wartime ID badge, shared her anticipation. She revealed that the Rosies, after numerous attempts, were finally going to be honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Decades after their service during the war, these real-life Rosie the Riveters were set to receive the highest civilian honor from Congress. K. Lynn Berry, the superintendent of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, mentioned that twenty-seven Rosies had traveled from various parts of the country to attend the prestigious ceremony, with support from the nonprofit organization.

The journey to Washington, D.C., was a celebratory experience for many of the women. Marian Sousa, 98, recounted the heartwarming send-off they received in San Francisco, complete with Rosie headwear and a special ceremony. The unexpected gestures continued on the plane, where flight attendants paid tribute to the Rosies.

Reflecting on the significance of the award ceremony, 106-year-old Velma Long, who served as a clerk-typist with the Navy during the war, expressed her gratitude for being recognized and feeling a sense of importance.

The award ceremony marked a long-awaited moment of acknowledgment for the Rosies and their supporters, highlighting ongoing efforts to preserve their stories for future generations. The establishment of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond in 2000 symbolized the beginning of this endeavor to honor the contributions of these remarkable women.

The late Phyllis Gould, a former welder during the war, played a crucial role in advocating for recognition of the Rosies. Her efforts, along with those of Mae Krier and others, eventually led to the Congressional Medal of Honor being bestowed upon the Rosies, acknowledging their vital role in history.

The experiences of the Rosies during WWII not only contributed to the war effort but also fostered their confidence and independence. Many of these women, like Jeanne Gibson, found empowerment in their work, realizing their capabilities beyond traditional gender roles.

As the Rosies accept their well-deserved recognition, their stories serve as a source of inspiration for future generations. Their resilience, determination, and willingness to step up during challenging times continue to resonate, reminding us of the importance of taking action when called upon.

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