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Phyllis Gould (1921–2021), one of the original Rosie the Riveters

by Linnea Crowther

Phyllis Gould was a World War II defense plant worker who fought for recognition for all the Rosie the Riveters who worked on the home front.

A Congressional Gold Medal for Rosie the Riveter

During World War II, Gould worked as a welder in a California shipyard, one of many women who took on traditionally male jobs in factories as the U.S. fought in World War II. She was one of the first six women hired at Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California, because she already had welding experience. She and the other “Rosie the Riveters” became immortalized in song and in the iconic “We Can Do It” wartime poster, but Gould sought more than pop culture fame for her fellow Rosie the Riveters. She helped push for the creation of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond in 2000. Gould also worked toward the declaration of Rosie the Riveter Day on March 21, and she was part of the movement to recognize all the Rosie the Riveters with a Congressional Gold Medal. She was involved in the design of the medal, which will be issued in 2022. Gould also worked as an interior designer.

Gould on wartime living

“Well, when there were rumors that they were going to ration sugar — I remember this. We bought a fifty-pound bag of sugar and hid it under the bed in case somebody came to get after us for hoarding. And the mice got in it and ruined it. So that was not a wise move. There was a feeling that whatever you did somebody was going to know about it. Even photographs — I have very few photographs taken during that time, and they’re right in front of my house. You didn’t dare take a camera anywhere else. They’d think you were a spy. And there were posters all over, you know? ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships.’” —from a 2002 interview for the Oral History Center at UC Berkeley

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Tributes to Phyllis Gould

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

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