“Rosie the Riveters” Get Hugs From Vice President Joe Biden

Phyllis Gould finally got her hug.

Not just any hug. And not just from anyone.

The 92-year-old Rosie the Riveter had been waiting a long time for the warm embrace she got Monday from Vice President Joe Biden.

"Oh my gosh, it was wonderful," Gould told reporters outside the White House, adding that she and her friends were invited to eat at Biden's home on Tuesday. "He came bursting out of a room and grabbed me. ...And then he hugged everyone. He's such a nice person. And fun."

In a photo tweeted by Biden's office, Gould is seen leaning into the vice president, her eyes half closed, as Biden grins and clasps both his hands around her right shoulder.

The women, dressed in blue vests and feisty red polka-dotted scarves for the occasion, also got to meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, who gave the ladies kisses as well as hugs.

Gould is one of six Rosie the Riveters from the San Francisco Bay Area who flew to Washington, D.C. at Biden’s special invitation. She and her pals had been electricians, welders and draftsmen at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, Calif. during World War II. Several of the women, now in their 80s and 90s, still work as docents at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

But despite all their hard work during World War II, they felt their stories had gone unnoticed. Gould had been writing letters to the White House seeking such recognition since Bill Clinton was president.

"I felt we were being ignored," Gould said. "All the military has been recognized. And we hadn't. They're not teaching World War II in the schools anymore. And we're not going to be around much longer."

In October, Biden surprised Gould with an out-of-the-blue phone call as part of the “Being Biden” audio series. He called her "impressive," and said he would be honored to meet the Fairfax, Calif. woman who used to be a journeymen welder in the 1940s. He also promised that if they met, he'd give her a "real hug."

For a while, it looked like the Rosies might not be able to make it to Washington, since they live on fixed incomes and didn't have money for the flight or hotels. After they took their story public, funds eventually poured in. More than 100 donors pitched in about $30,000 to pay for their trips, and a chaperone each, to steer the elderly women around the nation’s capital. 

Virgin Airlines flew them for free from San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, rolling out the red carpet for the women and giving them flutes of bubbly pink drinks to sip in style.

In addition to Gould, her 88-year-old sister, Marian Sousa of El Sobrante, Calif., a draftsman during the 1940s, was invited on the trip.

"My sister really hit the jackpot," Sousa said outside the White House on Monday.

Priscilla Elder, 93, of Pinole, Calif., an electrician, as well as Kay Morrison, 90, a journeyman welder, and Marian Wynn, 87, a pipe welder, both of Fairfield, Calif., also flew across country to meet the vice president. A sixth Rosie also was invited with the group as well.

"I'm so on cloud nine," Wynn said. "I never even dreamed it, that an average person could have this opportunity."

The Rosies visited the Pentagon on Monday and have scheduled visits with Reps. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), George Miller (D-Richmond) and others later this week.

If Gould and her friends felt ignored before, they certainly don't now.

"I'm just numb," Gould said. "We've been treated really, really special."

For more information on Rosie the Riveters, visit www.rosietheriveter.org.

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