But Mary and her husband, living in the Dublin section of Paterson, launched an Italian-language newspaper (the Italian Voice); there were about 42,000 Italians living in Paterson at the time, Burstyn writes. Mary and her husband also started the Colonial Sentinel (carrying legal notices and news in English) and in their papers they featured women of Italian descent on the front page (Burstyn, 231).
But by the 1940s the Augusto couple took an anti-fascist position in their papers (notwithstanding the fact that Italy had been taken over by fascist Mussolini) and Mary had a column called "The Parrot" which "combined political and social commentary," Burstyn explains on page 231. While she had her newspaper job during the day, it didn't stop Mary from working the "late shift at a nearby Wright Aeronautics defense plant." While working in a Rosie the Riveter capacity, Mary "…mastered the process of precision grinding and produced plane parts for the war effort" in Paterson (Burstyn, 231).
The money that Mary Augusto made working the late shirt at Wright Aeronautics defense plant, "…provided the money to purchase a building for the newspaper (for La Voce) in the neighborhood. She published in that building until her death. Mary ran for mayor in 1947, the first woman to run for mayor of Paterson. She championed school reform, welfare service, housing reform and other social changes. She was "excluded from candidate forums" and lost the race for mayor but Burstyn (213) explains that Mary was seen in Paterson as "…a courageous, reform-minded woman who demonstrated by her own actions her belief in the ability of women, the working class, and Italian-Americans." Later she won a seat as justice of the peace in Paterson.
Elizabeth Bracigliano was born in Paterson and got married in June, 1942. After her husband went to war in January, 1943, Bracigliano decided to "go and do something, do my part" (Kelsey, 2005). Bracigliano went to work at Wright Aeronautical Plant 7 in Wood Ridge, New Jersey (not far from Paterson). Bracigliano became an engineer tester for the B-29 bombers. Her job entailed hoisting the engines up to a wind tunnel (with a chain hoist), testing the engines for a couple of hours and picking the "wooden props that were acclimated to the pressure -- the pressure outside" (Kelsey, 2005).
Bracigliano explains that "you were either the pilot or the observer" and after making a record of the testing of the engine, the women checked for "oil leaks, gas leaks, any loose parts. We had government inspectors come… once that was all corrected, we would test them again" (Kelsey, p. 2). So the Bracigliano name was on all the logs that traveled with the planes to the war zones (so officials there could see the testing was complete). "Funny thing," Bracigliano recalled in her interview with Kelsey, "my husband was in service in India, and working on bombs and so forth, and he come across a log sheet with my name on it, which was quite a surprise and proud for him, to show and tell everyone" (p. 2).
The women workers were all let go in 1946, "more or less. I guess maybe just supervision or something was kept" but she went home and her husband came home from the war and in 1946 she gave birth to her daughter. Once her two daughters were a little older, she went to work for Seal-O-Matic helping build Minutemen missiles in Haledon, NJ. Kelsey, who was conducting the interview, asked Mary if working at WAC during the war made a difference in her life. "Oh it did! We had picked out furniture when we were first married, and I was proud that I was able to pay off that bill, working" (p. 2).
Bracigliano's mother was "a real Rosie, because she would do the riveting and so forth on these baffles" (the still protectors around the pistons).
Maureen Honey writes that once the U.S. went to war against Japan women were offered a "significant step up the occupational ladder" (Honey, 1984, p. 22). In fact, a woman working in a hotel or retail store could expect to make around $24.10 per week but a woman working in the war effort could expect a weekly check of $40.35 (Honey, 22). Indeed the wages were so good and women fit in so well that they wished to continue this kind of employment after the war was over.
"…Surveys taken in 1944 revealed that 75 to 80% of women in war production areas planned to remain in the labor force after victory was won" and they anticipated staying in the war-effort-related jobs they were in. But women were fired from those jobs and "offered work in female fields" which they did not want. The press and government portrayed the female war worker's "eager return to the home" but in fact it "belied the reality of women's resistance to losing their improved status in the workforce" (Honey, 23).
Leila J. Rupp explains that there were some interesting dynamics for women after the war ended. As other writers and authors have mentioned, Rupp explains that "Men returning home sough both their jobs and the comforts of a wife at home, if they could afford it" (Rupp, 2004, p. 53). Meanwhile many women who had moved from "poorly paid service jobs into more financially rewarding factory jobs preferred to remain, employers moved to restore the prewar sexual division of labor" (Rupp, 53).
In contrast to the Soviet bloc countries -- where after the war women were encouraged to combine paid work and motherhood" -- the goal of "returning American women to the home became a hallmark of American life" (Rupp, 53). Ironically, and just as striking as the contrast between Soviet block policies on women and the American approach, was the fact that American occupation authorities in Japan and Germany "insisted that those countries' new constitutions grant women equal rights" because American occupying leaders believed that women "could serve as the foundation of democratic governments" (Rupp, 53). The irony here is the fact that while some American leaders were touting the need to have women achieve equal opportunities in defeated Germany and Japan, the Equal Rights Amendment "…languished in congressional committees" in Washington, D.C., home of the winning government's executive and legislative branches.
How the propaganda effort came into fruition to create "Rosie the Riveter"
As to how the massive propaganda effort was put in place, this propaganda effort was necessitated by the fact that private industry had "…refused to remove prewar barriers against the employment of women until the last possible moment" (Honey, 29). Prejudice against women, African-Americans, Jews and aliens were "deep-seated" and so a campaign needed to be developed to overcome these restrictions against women in the war workforce. The Office of War Information (OWI), basically the propaganda machine for the war effort at home, was established in 1942. And commercial advertisers cooperated after "overwhelming pressure" from the government. President Franklin Roosevelt tried hard to "sidestep the controversy over using the media for propaganda purposes" by insisting that the OWI "…would merely disseminate information about government programs in a neutral way" (Honey, 32). But in fact heavy pressure was applied by the federal government to use the existing media to reach women who were needed to fill the slots vacated by men who went to war.
The National Park Service presents several parts to the propaganda theme that the government used to entice women into the war factories. The main theme was -- no surprise -- patriotism (as mentioned, the pitch was that men would die unnecessarily if the women wouldn't come in to the war effort); and women were also warned that if soldiers died because of their failure to get involved in the effort, they (women) would be called "slackers" (NPS, 2002).
Another propaganda theme was "high pay" and yet another was directed at husbands. The government called on husbands "to encourage their wives to take jobs" (this was based on the belief that many husbands just did not want their wives to go to work in peacetime) (NPS). The propaganda campaign was zeroed in on "white middle-class families whose women were not already working" and in fact women of color were never seen in the advertisements (NPS).
What the "real Rosies" said after the war
An essay by Alice Kessler-Harris reviews the movie "The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter" and Kessler-Harris reports that though the women in the factories "worked hard, sometimes too hard," they reflect on their wartime work as "satisfying and demanding" and moreover it was "appropriately lucrative" (Kessler-Harris, 1983, p. 250). The Rosies had to fight "racism and wage discrimination where it appeared and, having for once a little clout, they won such things as an end to segregated changing room and to racial abuse on the job" (Kessler-Harris, 250).