The legend of “Rosie the Riveter” has inspired romantic ideas about American women doing their patriotic duty during World War II.
But for Dorothy Kelley, the motives were more personal. Recently divorced, she was raising four children on her own. And after seeing women from the shipyard cashing $600 checks, she traded a job at a Montgomery Ward department store for long nights of welding.
Kelley — called “Dot” — built ships in Portland, Me., working at the South Portland Shipyards from 1942 until it closed in 1945.
Recently, Dorothy’s daughter, Joyce Butler, visited StoryCorps to remember her mother’s life in those days. Wearing overalls and heavy clothes against the cold, Kelly and the other women wriggled into the ships, welding ship’s seams together in tight spaces.
Injuries were part of the job, Butler recalls. She says her mother’s neck and chest became “all spotted with burn marks, from the sparks.”…
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