Remembering the "Rosies" contributions to WWII, 80 years after D-Day

98-year-old "Rosie" who worked Richmond shipyard looks back on her WWII contributions

During World War II, millions of "Rosies" helped set the groundwork for historic military operations such as D-Day, when more than 100,000 Allied Troops landed on the beaches of Normandy.

The June 6 D-Day operation, 80 years ago, was the largest seaborne invasion in history. It began the liberation of France and laid the foundation for the Allied victory of World War II.

The "Rosies" contributed through their work in shipyards and factories. One of them was 98-year-old Marian Sousa, who still embodies the Rosie the Riveter image.

"My year as a draftsman, that's what made me a Rosie," Sousa said.

Sousa's time as a Rosie at a Richmond shipyard is still a major part of her life. In her home, she has a room dedicated to Rosie the Riveter and everything she has accomplished because of her time working.

Sousa arrived to the Bay Area in 1942, when she was just 16 years old. She met her husband, enrolled in what is now Richmond High School and got married at 17.

After graduating, she took a six-week engineering drawing course at UC Berkeley where she learned to draw blueprints.

"I was hired right out of the classroom to go to shipyard number 3 in engineering department as a draftsman," said Sousa about how she became a Rosie.

She worked on blueprints that created ships that would fight in seaborn invasions, similar to the ones used on June 6, 1944.

Professor of history at Cal State East Bay, Jessica Weiss, said D-Day was a watershed battle for the Allies in Europe during World War II. But while the men were fighting overseas, Rosie's like Sousa were working at home.

"The war effort on the home front was a women's effort," said Weiss.

Weiss said women, like Sousa, were making significant contributions, manufacturing ammunition, air crafts, and ships. It was the beginning of women growing within the workforce.

"Despite the fact that women were first fired after the war, you never really saw a stepdown in women's employment again," Weiss said about the long-term influence of the Rosies.

Sousa still volunteers several times a month at the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond. She said when World War II began, everyone wanted to help and that many of the women didn't realize the impact they were having, but she's glad they did.

"I hope that we're giving a message to the young people, and especially girls, that you're not handicapped," Sousa said. "You don't have to walk two steps behind a guy. It's not a man's world anymore."

Sousa may be slowing down now, but she's grateful that other women are carrying the baton and continuing to shatter the glass ceiling.

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