The Rosies are finally off to Washington DC to get a “real hug” from Vice President Joe Biden.
The six elderly women from the Bay Area were sent off in style, with Virgin America rolling out the red carpet and donating premium cabin seats for their trip.
Their plane even had two female pilots, who called the Rosies “an inspiration.”
A cultural icon, “Rosie the Riveters” represent American woman who worked in factories during World War II, often producing ammunitions and war supplies.
Often used as a symbol of feminism and women’s economic power, the Rosies sometimes took on new jobs, replacing men who worked in the military.
The Bay Area “Rosies” worked as electricians, journeyman welders, draftsmen and pipe welders at the local Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California during World War II, helping to build Liberty and Victory cargo ships. Several of the women still work as docents at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park.
Biden himself called 91-year-old Phyllis Gould, one of the six original “Rosie the Riveters” at Kaiser Shipyard during World War II, after she sent him a letter expressing her desire to meet him at the White House.
“She said ‘that’s the last biggie on my to-do list before I die,’” Biden said in a recorded message. “Based on talking to her she’s got a lot of life left in her. What a remarkable remarkable generation of women.”
When Biden phoned Gould, he told her: “You said you were looking for a ‘big Biden hug,’ I’m looking for a return hug … It will be my great honor to meet you but I expect a real hug.”
“You'll get it,” Gould replied.
On Saturday, Gould thanked the Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters UA Local Union 393 for donating $5,000 as well as Virgin and Kaiser for sponsoring the trip. In all, nearly $30,000 in donations poured in from various local businesses and unions.
Gould and her group are scheduled to meet Biden on Monday.
“I really enjoyed my work – I was treated very well,” said Kay Morrison, another Rosie who will be accompanying Gould on the trip.
Morrison, 90, was a journeyman welder at Kaiser Shipyard from 1943 to 1945.
“I worked the graveyard shift - I took the ferry from San Francisco to the Kaiser Shipyard," she said. "I consider it an honor and a privilege to have served my country.”
Asked if she ever got her hands dirty while working as a welder, Morrison said: "I got them burned, I didn't get them dirty because I wore big gloves that came up to my elbows."
For more information on Rosie the Riveters, visit www.rosietheriveter.org.