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Building to be named for Rosies

Apr. 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A Charleston woman has made it her mission to honor Rosie the Riveters throughout West Virginia and now is planning a project to name a state building in Huntington after them.

Anne Montague is planning a late May ceremony to name the state building in Commerce Park the Rosie the Riveter Building. It sits right at the former site of Polan Industries, where her mother worked during the war.

Montague said she never talked at length with her mother about her efforts as a "Rosie the Riveter" during World War II.

She knows that her mother, Jessie Jacobs Frazier, worked at Polan Industries in West Huntington, making lenses used by the military for periscopes and guns. But that's about the extent of her knowledge about her mother's contribution to the war effort. Her mother died unexpectedly at age 65, and Montague regrets never having gathered more details about her mom's memories, or simply thanking her for the hard work she did on the home front to help preserve freedom.

Montague herself is now 73 and has taken on a mission of making sure that all the Rosies in her home state of West Virginia -- and the country -- not only get the recognition they deserve, but also pass on the lessons they have learned and have their stories and memorabilia preserved for future generations.

"Rosie the Riveter" is a cultural icon representing the American women who worked in factories during World War II making military supplies and equipment, replacing the male workers who went to war. Despite their contributions to America's success in the war, thanking these women has been an afterthought over the years, Montague said.

As the founder of the organization Thanks! Plain and Simple, Montague and a group of volunteers have undertaken a number of projects in the name of Rosies, from getting digitally recorded interviews with them to giving them opportunities to speak to schoolchildren and the public -- as well as celebrating their contributions in various ways, such as building a park in their name in St. Albans and creating quilts and artwork depicting them in action. There's also been a documentary that has been made about their war efforts, with the help of the West Virginia Humanities Council.

"It's the stored value in our projects," she said. "We're trying to leave behind something tangible."

Thanks! Plain and Simple has found more than 120 West Virginia women who worked making airplanes and ships, building the atomic bomb and working other jobs all throughout the nation that shortened the war and pioneered women in the work force.

While Montague has put full-time efforts into this work, "Any success we have is due, mostly, to the beauty of these women and the public's recognition that it is far past time that we learn from them," Montague said.

Representatives from England and Belgium have come to West Virginia to give them thanks, garnering some national attention for the state, and now Montague wants the state to get more national attention to inspire other states to follow suit in properly honoring their Rosies.

She's aiming for a date around Memorial Day to host a ceremony honoring West Virginia's Rosies by naming a state building after them.

Located at 2699 Park Ave. in Commerce Park, the soon-to-be Rosie the Riveter Building houses WorkForce West Virginia, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the state Tax Department and state Vocational Rehabilitation offices. Also, the Cabell County Board of Education has GED classes there, and the Workforce Investment Board is located there as well.

The Rosie the Riveter Building will be marked with a special plaque. Along with having government officials present, Montague is hoping to round up as many Rosies as she can from the area to participate in the celebration. She also hopes to bring in some national experts on the subject, including the founder of the national Rosie the Riveter Foundation, Frances Carter of Alabama, and one of the nation's premier labor historians, Marick Masters of Wayne State University in Michigan.

In hopes of raising funds for the event and to create a lasting piece of artwork to honor Rosies, she's also looking for someone to commission faceted glass art projects she has planned. Three glass designs have been made of Rosies at work -- one being the traditional picture of Rosie rolling her sleeve and flexing her muscle, another of a woman at work on the railroad, and a third of two women riveting an airplane.

Montague is hoping the railroad design will be the first one commissioned, and she'd like it to have a permanent home somewhere in Huntington where the public can see and remember. Blenko Glass has agreed to donate three faceted glass windows, and Montague seeks high school students to put them together, with proper instruction from some experts at Blenko.

Anyone wishing to help with fundraising efforts by commissioning glass or simply contributing funds or time to the efforts can reach Montague's office at 304-776-4743, her cellphone at 304-545-9818 or go online to www.thanksplainandsimple.org.

A meeting is planned at 11 a.m. Monday, April 8, at the Cabell County Public Library to discuss the efforts. Also, anyone who knows a Rosie and would like to put her in touch with Montague, can contact her as well.

"Any Rosie -- we want to get that woman's story for history, and we want the community to get to know her before it's too late," Montague said.

One Huntington woman who helped in the war effort was Evada Josephine Collinsworth, who worked as a file clerk in the U.S. Navy and later worked for General Motors in Columbus.

She likes the idea of celebrating the Rosies and encouraging them to share their stories. Even at 97, not too many people know hers.

"Mostly, only my family," she said.

Honoring Rosie the Riveter

An organization called Thanks! Plain and Simple seeks to identify, honor and preserve the life lessons and memories of West Virginia's Rosie the Riveters.

It's done a number of projects throughout the state with that in mind. Among them:

Along with original music that has been written about the Rosies, the group is organizing a movement to provide public spaces with bluebird boxes, in recognition of one of their favorite songs from the time -- "Bluebird of Happiness."

Artwork has been made by Rosies of Rosies.

Presentations have been made, giving Rosies a chance to speak publicly about their experiences.

Interviews digitally recorded on CD and in film.

A children's alphabet book has been created centered on words involving the Rosies.

"Rosie the Riveter Park" was dedicated in St. Albans in 2012. Trees have been planted in their honor.

Anyone wishing to help with efforts can reach Anne Montague's office at 304-776-4743, her cellphone at 304-545-9818 or go online to www.thanksplainandsimple.org.

A meeting is planned for 11 a.m. Monday, April 8, at the Cabell County Public Library to discuss future projects.

 

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