Wilda Stephens returned from her second year of college near the start of World War II, planning to go back for her third year right away. But things didn’t work out that way.
“When I got home my girlfriends were off to war, to be secretaries,” Stephens said. “They were so pleased because the girls then could get a job as a secretary.”
With all her friends off the contribute to the war effort, she decided to go to Consolidated Aircraft Corporation’s sheet metals school.
When she graduated, the wives of service members said she should go work in a factory building B-24 bombers with them. So she did, becoming one of 6 million women that filled jobs left vacant by men who left to fight the war and earned the title Rosie.
Stephens and the Rosies across the nation are now are being recognized for their contributions to the war efforts, including memorial rose garden at the Vintage Flying Museum in Fort Worth. The American Rosie the Riveter Association in Fort Worth broke ground for the garden today, with more than 150 community members attending the ceremony. The association expected 15 to 20 people.
Leslie Garvis, president of the Fort Worth ARRA, said the association hopes to have a garden planted in every congressional district across the US.
“It’s a place to honor the Rosies and educate people about the Rosies for what they did during the war, how they contributed on the homefront,” Garvis said.
It’s a sentiment that hit home with Stephens.
“I am absolutely flabbergasted,” Stephens said. “I love it. I love to know that I did do something worthwhile.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Travino and a representative from Congresswoman Kay Granger all attended and spoke about the contributions of the Rosies.
“There are thousands of women working at Lockheed, doing exactly the same job the men are doing,” Price said. “Rosie the Riveters are responsible for making that lasting legacy.”
Price said she owes her ability to serve as mayor of Fort Worth to the work done by the Rosies.
“It’s all of you who have gone before us and opened the door for us,” Price said. “Rosie became that symbol of strength and tenacity that helped America and the rest of the world prevail against the forces of evil.”
Stephens, who was the guest of honor at the event, was recognized by all of the speakers.
Chuckie Hospers, director of the Vintage Flying Museum, said it makes sense to put the rose garden on the property.
“The aircraft we have in the hanger fly, they aren’t just static, and the Rosies built a lot of them like the B-24,” Hospers said.
She’s excited to take part in recognizing the Rosies for what they did.
The gardens can be anything from a single Rosie the Riveter Rose bush, specially designed to honor the women who contributed from the homefront to a more elaborate layout. It has a distinctive red and orange bud and, paired with a sign, can be considered one of the memorial rose gardens.
The Fort Worth garden will be a square layout with a picnic pavilion, a Rosie the Riveter rose centerpiece and bushes in each of the four corners.
The museum is looking for volunteers to help with irrigation, concrete laying, planting and supplies. Those interested can contact Hospers at email@example.com or Garvis at firstname.lastname@example.org