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Rosalind Walter - The First ‘Rosie The Riveter,’ Has Passed At The Age Of 95

Published Friday, March 6, 2020
by Joseph Berger/The New York Times
Rosalind Walter - The First ‘Rosie The Riveter,’ Has Passed At The Age Of 95

(LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK) - Rosalind P. Walter grew up in a wealthy and genteel Long Island home.  Yet, when the United States entered World War II, she chose to join millions of other women in the home-front crusade to arm the troops with munitions, warships and aircraft.

She worked the night shift driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes at a plant in Connecticut - a job that had almost always been reserved for men.

A newspaper column about her inspired a morale-boosting 1942 song that turned her into the legendary Rosie the Riveter, the archetype of the hard-working women in overalls and bandanna-wrapped hair who kept the military factories humming.

Her story caught the attention of the Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Igor Cassini, who wrote about her in his “Cholly Knickerbocker” column.

And that, in turn, inspired the songwriters.

Written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb and popularized by the Four Vagabonds, the bandleader Kay Kyser and others, “Rosie the Riveter” captured a historical moment that helped sow the seeds of the Women’s Movement of the last half of the 20th Century.

It began: All the day long whether rain or shine… She’s a part of the assembly line… She’s making history… Working for victory… Rosie, brrrrr, the Riveter… Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage… Sitting up there on the fuselage… That little frail can do, more than a male can do… Rosie, brrrrr, the Riveter.

Other women went on to become models for Rosie posters and magazine covers as well, but Rosie was just Ms. Walter’s first celebrated act.

At her death on Wednesday (March 4th) at the age of 95, she remained something of a public presence as a major philanthropist and one of PBS’s principal benefactors, her name intoned with others on programming like “Great Performances,” “American Masters,” “PBS NewsHour,” “Nature” and documentaries by Ken and Ric Burns.

She was the largest individual supporter of WNET in New York, helping to finance 67 shows or series starting in 1978.

Her friend Richard Somerset-Ward said she died at her home in Manhattan.

Walter had been drawn to public television in part to compensate for lost opportunities during the war, said Allison Fox, WNET’s Senior Director for major gifts.

In serving her country, Walter had sacrificed a chance to attend either Smith or Vassar College, Fox said, and found that public television documentaries and other programs helped fill in the gaps in her education.

 “She cared deeply about the public being informed and felt that public television and media is the best way to accomplish this,” Fox said.

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