Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II
I was born Nina May James Farris on May 25, 1918 in Atlanta, Georgia. I was assisted into this world by an Army doctor and his nurse, Nina. My father was a captain in the first world war and we were in Atlanta at an Army base while he trained new soldiers. My mother names me after her nurse. When I was 5 months old my mother and my 2 sisters and brother returned to Southern California where I grew up.
I was 17 years old when right out of high school I apprenticed in millinery. In those days women did not come downtown in slacks. They wore hats, silk stockings, and dress shoes. I took the old red streetcar five days a week to Seventh and Spring Street and then walked over to Broadway to the Forrester Building to spend 8 hours sewing flowers, veils, and ribbons onto hats. When war broke out suddenly things changed. No salesmen out of New York would be appearing with new merchandise. No stores were buying hats. Overalls, uniforms, plus hard toes shoes and hair nets became popular items.
When I was 22 years old I retired from millinery to apply for work at Douglas Aircraft. I then became Rosie the Riveter. I was still living at home and since my mother also worked at Douglas , we shared the car pool ride with 3 other women Douglas employees. Because of the limited gasoline supply it was easier to get gas when we car pooled. After a few months in the Riveting Department, I found myself engaged to William Anderson, the lead man in the Riveting Department, who on December 19, 1943 became my husband.
A few months later there was an opening in the Experimental Inspection Department. I was able to move into that office on the swing shift. My supervisor was Roy Russing. At that time Roy was Pacific Coast Midget Race Car Champion. I was able to meet many people who achieved some important status in life, but put is all aside to assist in war work.
During the war, life changed. Besides the gasoline, food was also rationed. We were given stamps to buy food. We also had heavy drapes on the windows and sometimes at night we would get a knock at the door to tell us a little light was peeking out. Many theaters and restaurants stayed open later for the swing shift workers.
Also during the war my father, James Farris, was a guard at the shipyard. My brother, Walter Farris, would soon leave home to be part of the 19 th Engineers and took part in the African Invasion. His letters home were somewhat frightening, but so very welcomed. He told us about seeing Mussolini hanging from a tree with his mistress hanging beside him. When the war was over I got my brother back safely.
There was great rejoicing when the war was over. I had lost a cousin on a sinking bombed ship and my husband lost a nephew in Saipan . There were good things too during the war. I made new friends at Douglas and I had 51 wonderful years with my William. Three children and 11 grandchildren filled out lives with joy and it all happened because, for about a year, I became Rosie the Riveter and then another year I worked in Experimental Inspection. I am eternally grateful for that experience.