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Rosie The Riveter from Lee's Summit
Rosie The Riveter from Lee's Summit
June 21, 2014
Photo by Bill Morrow
By Carlee Edwards
the height of WWII, to fill in the gaps left by the thousands of men
who were drafted, jobs that were previously closed to women began to
Among these positions, the aviation industry had the
greatest increase of female workers as more than 310,000 women joined
the aviation work force.
Kansas City quickly became an epicenter
for producing planes during the war. In the midst of this war
18-year-old Emma Jean Shannon, now Emma Jean Newland a current resident
of Lee’s Summit, moved to the city from her family’s farm 50 miles from
Kansas City after graduating high school, looking for work.
the time of great depression jobs were scarce but Emma found work at the
aviation plant in KCK’s Fairfax District riveting on B-25 planes, much
like the iconic campaign figure ‘Rosie the Riveter.’
been to Kansas City even three times,” Newland said. “Someone just told
me about the job once I’d gotten there so I decided to check it out.”
past weekend, just two days before her 90th birthday, Emma Jean Newland
was given the opportunity to fly in one of the B-25 bombers she helped
build, on an ‘honor flight’ over downtown Kansas City.
following the Flag Day ceremony on Saturday, June 14 at the National
Airline History Museum, Newland and veteran Ray Hawks were met by the
Axis Nightmare, a vintage World War Two bomber.
The B-25 bomber
with its 160,000 moving parts and 150,000 rivets was used primarily in
the island campaigns against the Japanese forces.
definitely Rosie The Riveter,” Newland said at the event. “I worked on
that flap right there on the tail assembly. I put the rivets in.”
More than 6,600 B-25 were produced at the Fairfax plant.
started to work at the plant August 8, 1942 and worked there until the
war was over in 1945,” Newland said. “I haven’t seen one of these planes
since then. I never got to fly in one until now.”
time when she first began to work at the plant Emma explained that she
had first attended Lathrop Trade School to train for six weeks before
going on to work on the North American Aviation assembly line. She was
paid $1.10 an hour when she first started out, but was later promoted to
‘Lead Man,’ and was paid an extra 15 cents.
about defense,” Newland explained. “They stopped making car batteries,
washing machines, and things like that... everything was focused on the
Newland reminisced on the days of the war and living in the city during the depression while being a woman in the work force.
“Back then you could walk anywhere, go wherever you wanted and nobody bothered you,” Newland said about living in the city.
“It was 10 cents for bus transfers to get around. All the girls would ride the bus.”
She explained how they’d work long and odd hours so the buses could manage to transport everyone.
didn’t go to work from 8:00 to 5:00; you’d work from 7:42 to 4:42 or
something odd like that because there were so many people.”
plant required all the girls to wear their hair up in a bandana and to
wear pants as opposed to housedresses, which were the common attire of
women before the war.
“I started wearing pants during the war, and I’ve been wearing them ever since,” Newland said.
Along with working on the assembly line, Newland and the other girls would give in other ways to help with the war effort.
“We gave blood and gave bonds from our pay checks to support the war,” she explained.
spoke quite fondly of her time working in the Fairfax plant, and was
thrilled to get the chance to fly in one of the B-25’s that she’d worked
It was during a museum tour put on by Lee’s Summit Bank back
in March at the National Airline History Museum that Newland mentioned
she had worked as a riveter on the planes to the tour guide.
“He pointed at me and said ‘I want to talk to you’, but I had no idea what about,” Newland said.
From there things fell into place for Newland to attend the Flag Day ceremony on the 14th and go up in the Axis Nightmare.
“I was really surprised,” Newland said. “And it was a great honor to finally fly in one of those planes."