Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II

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Mourine Merrow

original photograph size: 8 "x10"

My Story 5/4/04

I was born, Mourine Fern Dyer, in 1916 in Gaylord , Michigan to Mary and Theodore Dyer. When I was a baby, my family moved to Hulbert , Michigan , a small town in the Upper Peninsula . There, my dad worked as a lumberman and trapper. In those days, animal trapping was legal and a way to make a living. My dad was also a Justice of the Peace in Hulbert where he had many duties.

My life came to a halt at the age of ten. I felt as though everything I had known to that point had been taken from me. My dad died, leaving my mom with four young children and no way to support them. We had to leave our home, friends and wayof life in Northern Michigan . We soon began a journey to the Southeastern part of the State where my mom’s sisters lived. The journey was an experience for all of us. My two younger sisters, Margarite, 5, and Helen, 3, and my older brother, Ted, who was 12, left the only home we knew.

Our trip took us on a train to St. Ignace, a ferry across the straits (train and all!) to Grand Central Station in Detroit . Once we reached Detroit , we took a street car to Ecorse to my Aunt Hattie’s house. Life took another turn once we arrived in Ecorse because of the Great Depression. My mom was lucky and got a job at Ternsteads in Detroit . My sisters and I were placed in a children’s home in East Detroit so my mom could work. My brother stayed with Aunt Hattie and my mom. We were separated for two years until my mom remarried and our family was reunited.

I enjoyed school and was able to complete the eighth grade. I enjoyed reading and learning new things so much and did well in school. When I think back to my childhood, I think that first journey from the Upper Peninsula must have stirred a life-long yearning for travel and learning in me, even though, at the time, I didn’t realize it.

On September 7, 1934 , I married Fred Merrow. I was eighteen years old. We looked forward to our future together and bought land in Dearborn Township . We built our home together. I worked side-by-side with my husband and enjoyed watching our hard work evolve into our home. Our first child, a son who we named Phillip, was born in 1935. We were well on our way to our family life together.

In 1935, war broke out in Europe and an event that would change life as we knew it was coming to our shores. On December 7, 1941 , the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. Things we took for granted like filling up the gas tank of our car, or buying things at the grocery store that we wanted, not only what we needed, came to a stop. We had two children now. I had a little girl, Anne, who was born the previous September, 1940. We learned quickly about rationing, as each family received War Ration books with food stamps and there were limits placed on gas.

I kept busy with my family and volunteering in any capacity I could as our country pulled together. Many of our friends were in the service and I wrote letter after letter to help keep their spirits up at this difficult time. The war was stressful on everyone and we had to each do our part. My husband, Fred, worked as a crane operator in Ecorse and was an Air Raid Warden in our community. I managed things at home by planting a victory garden. Trading items with neighbors and saving everything so there was as little waste as possible.

Fred transferred to the Aircraft Division at Murray Body and decided to get into war work. When Fred enrolled in the aircraft training school, I decided I would do the same. I wanted “to work with my old man” and help the war effort. We completed the training together and asked for a production line job. We worked on the wings of bombers. The Detroit Times was conducting an experiment to see if husbands and wives could work together like this for the war effort. Fred and I knew we “fit the bill”. My title became “Rosie the Riveter”, a title I will always be proud to own. I developed life-long friendships as I worked to help our country and felt a sense of pride in what I accomplished.

I was home when I heard about V-J Day and V-E Day in 1945. I remember feeling happy that it was finally over as well as a powerful feeling of relief. Our troops would be coming home and life would go on. I didn’t continue working at Murray body as “Rosie” when the war ended. My work as wife and mother continued and we would be blessed with another son, Randy, in 1947, giving Fred and I three wonderful children.

When I think about my life and the many journeys I’ve had, the title I held of “Rosie the Riveter” is one of the best. I appreciate this country more than I can express. Countless sacrifices have been made to ensure that future generations will live in freedom. After living through World War II, I know I would never want to see another war like that one. I am proud to remember that I played a small part to help preserve the freedom we all enjoy today.

 

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