Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II

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Susan Taylor King

original photograph size: 2"x1.5"

I was born on July 13, 1924 in Upper Tidewater, Virginia in Northumberland County in the town of Kilmarnock. This was a very rural area. The chief occupations were farming, fishing and factory workers who labored in the fishing, crabbing and oyster factories. This was before migrant workers were heard of in this area. During the depression, my family lived scarcely on my father’s resources as a waterman. Just prior to World War II, my family moved to Baltimore, Maryland so that my father could earn $5.00 a day working at the shipyard. My family of seven traveled 150 miles by car to Baltimore, Maryland. All of the children entered schools in Baltimore. I entered Douglas High School and graduated in 1942. Six months after graduation World War II began. I graduated from high school in academic curriculum; therefore, I had no skills for the world of work. My two friends and I entered riveting school. We were hired immediately at Eastern Aircraft. Baltimore was a “top of the South or bottom of the North” city. There were separate signs on all of the stores downtown. Public schools were segregated. The riveting school was in a black neighborhood. Transportation was not segregated and neither was our work at Eastern Aircraft. All workers ate in the same cafeteria. There seemed to have been a social or civil relationship between the black and white workers. This was a period in Baltimore before the neighborhoods were integrated.

After the workday, we returned to our neighborhoods, churches, movies, clubs and social activities. We had the U. S. O. where the soldiers came to dance and spend an evening in Baltimore . I became a pen pal to a few service men. After 10 months of work at Eastern Aircraft, I decided to enter college. I felt strongly that there must be a way to help my community. I entered college and later received my Bachelor of Science and my Masters Degrees from Morgan state University in Baltimore , Maryland . My career continued after riveting and I worked in the Baltimore City Public School System as a science teacher and a guidance counselor. I am the widow of the late Dr. John Wesley King who was a professor at Morgan State University . I am the mother of two daughters, one is the founder of the Sankofa Dance Theater and the other is a teacher. I am also the grandmother of seven and the great-grandmother of eight. I am essentially a “peace” person. I consider all wars inhumane. We have a superior brain and technology and humanity can best be served with peace. The loss of lives is intolerable. Unfortunately, I have lost contact with the people at Eastern Aircraft. The plant is now owned by General Motors and I have not been back to visit since I left there many years ago. I love to tell my story to young people at all times.

 

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