Rose M. Keene, a riveter and welder who helped build the Battleship New Jersey during World War II, came to my talk on “Rosie the Riveter” at the Camden Historical Society, Camden, NJ on Sunday, March 9. She recalled everything–the molding she welded around the officers’ bunk, where she riveted, what she wore, and her boss Orville “Pop Robbie” Robinson. “He was constantly bugging me,” she said. “So I took him home, introduced him to my mother, and he married her!”
In the top picture, I am giving Rose a close-up look at my PowerPoint. She was fascinated with the primary source documents–advertisements, photos, etc. We were a tag team as we talked about each image–me from my research, her from her first-hand experience. Along with an image of the sheet music for the “Rosie the Riveter” song, I had inserted the sound. When I click on the icon (all new technology for Rose), she immediately started singing along and dancing in her chair! Rose’s granddaughter Debbie is standing behind her. Sovonne Ukam is standing behind me. Bottom picture: She also loved seeing all the pictures in my book, Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II. I, of course, gave her a specially autographed copy of my book. In the spring, Rose is taking her 8-year grandson Damian on a tour of the “New Jersey.” She wants him to “know what I did to help win the war!” I am planning to go with them. These unexpected encounters are one of the perks about being a writer.
A modern picture of The Battleship New Jersey, now a museum located on the Camden side of the Delaware River (Philadelphia skyline is the in the background).