Phyllis Gould, One of the Original 'Rosie the Riveters' Who Helped Build Ships During WWII Dies at 99

The Real Rosie the Riveter Phyllis Gould dies at 99.
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Phyllis Gould was one of six million civilian women who joined the workforce and worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, the Associated Press reported.

Phyllis Gould, one of the six original, real-life “Rosie the Riveters," who worked as a welder during World War II building warships, died last week. She was 99, CBS News reported

Gould was one of the first women who stepped up to the call of duty in 1942 when she signed on as a welder at a shipyard in Richmond, California, earning $.90 an hour and filling positions when the men were called to war, CBS News reported.

“I was having fun,” said Gould during an interview, according to the news outlet. “We had equal pay with the men. I was married and was making the same money he did.”

Gould was one of six million civilian women who joined the workforce and worked in factories and shipyards at that time, the Associated Press reported.

When the war ended, Gould made it her life mission to ensure that the Rosies will never be forgotten. She helped establish a museum and made March 21 'National Rosie the Riveter Day,' which takes place annually. She wrote hundreds of handwritten letters to lobby for a congressional gold medal for the Riveters. Since she didn’t have a computer, she would write letters by snail mail. And, since she didn’t have a cellphone she would use her landline to call all the political leaders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Her perseverance paid off. When she got the approval, she called it a “thrill of a lifetime.” 

Rep. Jackie Speier, who helped lead the effort to get the gold medal authorized said Gould “flexed her muscles on the telephone every day telling Congress to move forward on recognition of the Rosies,” the AP reported.

“Phyllis is, in modern-day life, as iconic as the Westinghouse poster with the woman in the polka-dotted bandana,” Speier said. 

When she was 92, Gould went to the White House, when former President Barak Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden were in office. She described it as a lifelong dream of hers. And, when the president asked her why she was so tenacious, Gould replied:  “Our time is limited," a report said.

Gould’s younger sister, Marian Sousa, 95, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she, too, was a Rosie and worked at the Richmond shipyards drawing ship blueprints a year after her sister was hired. 

“Phyllis had 99 good years, was quite a gal,” Sousa told the Chronicle, adding proudly that her sister “really put the Rosies on the map.”

After the war, Gould became an interior decorator, married and divorced twice, had five children, and moved around before settling in Fairfax, north of San Franciso. On July 20 she died from complications of a stroke,

Before her death, she was still championing for a Rosie statue on the Washington Mall and plaques at the veteran memorial. She was also working on the design for a Congressional medal to be issued next year honor the Rosies, a report said.

Her sister told the Chronicle that she wanted two words etched on her gravestone: ‘Mission Accomplished.”

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