My Life as Rosie the Riveter
Flight Journal|September - October 2020
My Life as Rosie the Riveter
I have read about and seen many images about “Rosie the Riveter,” but my story is unique. I was a model with a rivet gun who worked at a factory, and my husband really did fly the very planes that I was advertising to encourage women to build during WW II.
VALERIE SNOWDEN

In 1942, I was living in my hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, working in the office at a silk factory, where I was earning $16 a week to help support my mother and siblings. I had heard about other women working in Stratford, Connecticut, at the Chance-Vought factory and making what was considered really good money. My mother encouraged me to go to Stratford to earn the extra money and to have money for myself. The Shelby family, who had four sons, was working there, and the whole family had moved to Stratford. They had bought a large house and were taking in boarders. I found out I could live with them and moved to Stratford to apply at the plant.

I went to the factory, feeling very patriotic with the belief that we could really make a difference in building the Corsair fighter planes. I wanted office work, but there were no openings. They did have a job as a messenger, running blueprints from engineering to the plant, and returning modifications to the blueprints back to engineering. Right away, I was making $30 a week—really good money! I had to run down the stairs from engineering, then across the taxiway where new planes were taken for their test flights to the factory. I saw a helicopter there for several days, which, of course, was a new invention, and a man in white lab coat. I asked someone standing near the building who he was and was told, “That is Igor Sikorsky.” The company had a division called Vought-Sikorsky. The next time I needed to cross the taxiway and saw him there, I said, “Hi, Mr. Sikorsky,” and he bowed to me. That became a routine for the two of us on a daily basis until he was no longer working on the helicopter at that location.

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September - October 2020