Honolulu Chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association
While the world had its eye on Hitler in Europe, Japan was planning a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. It was Japan’s attack that launched America into War, and women into the workplace.
Rosie the Riveter represents the American women who worked on the Home Front to support the war effort. On the mainland she took up jobs like riveting, welding, drafting, munitions, engineering, and farming. She grew victory gardens and started child day care centers. She was creative, inventive and determined to do whatever was needed to end the war and bring our boys home.
Here on Oahu things were a little different. The Red Cross volunteers who began rolling surgical dressings for England in the 1940’s would be among those who might be considered the first Rosies here in Hawaii.
The Women’s Air Raid Defense group (WARDs), also known as “the Shuffleboard Pilots” was quickly formed to track all planes and their movements in the Hawaiian skies. (To learn more see “Hawaii’s War Years” by Gwenfread Allen, pg 106-107).
One of the more famous local Hawaiian’s who would be considered a Rosie was Mary Kawena Pukui, who lived a colorful life, rich in Hawaiian ancestry, history and intellect.
“As part of the war effort from 1941–1943, Kawena served as forelady of a camouflage unit in Waikïkï, under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with the lei ‘garland’ makers, whose job was to weave burlap strips into chicken wire for moveable covers for coast artillery, airplanes and trucks. Kawena’s job was primarily counseling and peacekeeping among the some 100 employees and management staff.
Additionally, during the war, Kawena put together a dance group of nearly 50 people who entertained Army, Navy and U.S.O. groups.” (To learn more see “Two Hawaiian Dancers and Their Daughters” by Adrienne L Kaeppler).
These Hawaiian women with their can do attitudes were undeniably Rosies! But none would be recognized as such until decades later. And for most, it was too late — our Rosies are dying every day. This is why it is so important to find our Rosies. To celebrate them and their contributions to America while they are still alive!
Won’t you join us by simply asking your elders if they remember the war and if so, what did they do? You might find a Rosie and a good story too! And if you do, let us know! We’d like to help celebrate them — our Rosies!!