Phyllis Gould, a welder who was one of the original “Rosie The Riveters” that was hired during World War II, passed away last week. She was 99 years-old.
The Associated Press reported that Gould died on July 20 due to complications from a stroke.
“She has been an ‘I can do it’ person all her life, and she passed that on to all of us,” said her granddaughter, Shannon Akerstrom. “The Rosie thing — that was really her.”
With men busy fighting during World War II, the U.S. government created a recruitment campaign in the hopes of encouraging young women to fill in for them in defense jobs. The legendary poster of the campaign showed a woman known as Rosie The Riveter, who was dressed in a polka-dotted bandana flexing a muscular arm as she rolls up her sleeve.
Gould, who was a welder at the time, was one of the first six women hired at a shipyard in the San Francisco Bay. After the war, she became an interior decorator, married and divorced twice, and had five children. Her 95-year-old sister Marian Sousa described her as “kind of like a hippie, you know, where the wind blows.”
Gould would make it her life’s mission to ensure that the six million Rosie The Riveters were never forgotten. In 2014, she flew to the White House to meet with then-President Barack Obama and help lobby for a National Rosie the Riveter Day.
“We had equal pay with the men. I was married, a young marriage, and he was a welder, and I became a welder and was making the same money he did,” she said during the visit, according to CBS News.
Three years later, the U.S. Senate officially voted in favor of National Rosie the Riveter Day.
“She really put the Rosies on the map. It was her letters — so many of them she wrote, to everyone — that did it,” her sister said.
“Phyllis is, in modern-day life, as iconic as the Westinghouse poster with the woman in the polka-dotted bandana,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said of Gould. “She flexed her muscles on the telephone every day telling Congress to move forward on recognition of the Rosies.”
In the end, Gould’s truly was a life well-lived.
“She wants on her gravestone: ‘Mission Accomplished,’” said her sister. “I think she did it all.”
This piece originally appeared in UpliftingToday.com and is used by permission.
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