August 25, 2015

Allison Joyce, Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Historical Park

It has been 10 days since the Rosie Rally. It took me about a week to recover from the physical and mental exhaustion sustained on the day and the frantic preparation. I hardly left my apartment for two whole days after the event!

I am in awe of the victory that this event was. When we first got started, lo those seven weeks ago, Sue (our Acting Superintendent) said to me, “Anything involving Rosie the Riveter takes on a life of its own and becomes huge. It can be a little scary. Hang on tight.” And boy was she right. It was incredible to be on the inside of an event honoring an icon of women’s strength. I mean, I could hang up my blue t-shirt and polka-dot bandanna now and call my internship a success. I was so lucky to be around when this event came up because I got to be heavily involved in such a fun project.

I worked hard on this event, basically full-time on social media and volunteer outreach and all the weird, little tasks that are fit for an intern. Every day was an adventure and working hard can feel so good! The variety of the work I did on the event was a lot of fun. It kept me engaged and energetic.

Some approved Rosies
Some happy Rosies

I learned so much throughout the course of this project. I learned about working with different types of people and accommodating the various levels of commitment people have to events that are outside of their jobs or school. I got to know the sting of frustration that comes from a volunteer’s casual email on the morning of an event saying, “Wanted to let you know I won’t be there today. It’s all good!”  

I learned that I love project work because of the variety it entails, but also because of the investment you give personally to the success of an event and responsibility you feel for its outcome. I learned about throwing an event of this size. I have to give props to the three concerned citizens that contacted me anonymously beforehand about the number of toilets at the park. I learned the power of social media firsthand (our event page has incredible statistics: 22,000 people apparently saw it!) as well as the short-comings of facebook as a means of communication. I ended up answering the same questions over and over again because the “wall” would simply bury my responses.

The event itself was a lot of fun. It was the hottest day I have ever experienced in Richmond and with everyone wandering about in their dark blue, heavy-duty coveralls we thought we’d at least get a few complaints. But the Swingin’ Blue Star Moms – a fun karaoke-style singing group that does  covers of 1940’s songs- performed towards the shaded area so that people could stay out of the sun.  People sat and ate their period-appropriate picnics out of period-appropriate lunch boxes and did each other’s period-appropriate hair while listening to period-appropriate music. It was wonderful.

Cross-generational connections at the Rosie Rally
Some approved Rosies

Our turn out was beyond our wildest dreams. Before the event we joked about calling for 1,000 Rosies. Someone would say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we actually got 1,000 people?” And someone else would respond, “Wouldn’t it be terrible if we actually got 1,000 people?” But we ended up getting somewhere around 1,300 people with almost 1,100 Rosies and thanks to everyone’s big smiles and selfie-sticks, everyone fit just perfectly inside Marina Bay Park!

There were Rosies of every age, size, color, and creed. I believe the youngest Rosie was one month old and the oldest was 97. The interactions across generational lines were some of the most incredible I’ve ever witnessed and a reminder that today is the day for events of this type. Our sisters who joined the work force during WWII are a diminishing resource. If we do not take the chance to thank them for paving the way for the lives we live as professional women today, as well as their contribution to the outcome of WWII, we might not get another. 

Cross-generational connections at the Rally
Cross-generational connections at the Rally

The record attempt went off without a hitch. Once we had everyone filed into the (sweltering) record attempt area, the speeches were brief and relevant. We even got to hear from Elinor Otto, the oldest working Rosie the Riveter who just retired from a Boeing Plant at age 95! We also had the special honor of unveiling a Rosie the Riveter statue crafted for our Park by Seward Johnson which created a great photo opportunity for all Rosies present.

The Rosies!
The Rosies!
Lisa and Brynne, our Official Witnesses.
Lisa and Brynne, our Official Witnesses.

The support from the Park and Trust staff was incredible. Everyone came out of the woodwork ready and eager to work hard. Rangers I’d never even met before were offering help to me and took the Rally on as their own cause. I’ve never worked with a group that conglomerates like that. It was a very special feeling that I do not take for granted. We also had enormous help from Spirit of ’45 and The City of Richmond, both in preparation and on the day of the event. And a HUGE thank you must go out to our volunteers who gave 110%, came early and stayed late, and without whom the event would not have been possible. They even filled out their 301as!

Since the conclusion of the event I have been blow away by the volume of press and well-wishing I have received.  People from the most unrelated corners of my life have mentioned that they heard about it from a third party. Huffington Post, USA Today, and several local news outlets have reported on the event. I think the excitement the event generated goes to show how powerful a symbol Rosie the Riveter is. She is feminine, strong and her penetrating gaze indicates that she doesn’t put up with much. I think people today identify with her image as well as the women she inspired back in 1942.

I have finally gathered and scanned the hours of video footage, pages of signed witness statements, and pictures beyond the telling that Guinness World Records (Officially Amazing!) requires. I’m just holding out on a final sign-off from my coworkers and for these files to zip (12 hours remaining) and everything’s off to Guinness and then all we can do is wait. Our Official  Witnesses counted 1,084 Rosies but we were technically only equipped to count 1,000. It’s in Guinness’s hands to decide how many they will officially accept towards us breaking the World Record! If they do award it to us, our friends in Yspilanti, Michigan have already begun talk of another challenge. It looks like it will be our title to defend! We Did It! 

Me in my Rosie the Riveter finest.
Me in my Rosie the Riveter finest.

Allison Joyce allison_joyce@partner.nps.gov

Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Historical Park, Eugene O’Niell National Historical Park, John Muir National Historic Site, and Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial.