Shipbuilders and their families and friends gathered at Huntington Park for the second Rosie the Riveter rally. Photo by Nicholas Langhorne

Celebrating the Legacy of Rosie the Riveter

Published September 7, 2022

Newport News Shipbuilding employees, families and friends gathered Aug. 20 to celebrate the contributions of women in shipbuilding and to honor those who came before them.

The event, a Rosie the Riveter rally, was held at Huntington Park and hosted by the Women in Shipbuilding Enterprise (WiSE) employee resource group in partnership with the Women in Manufacturing Community of Practice. The iconic Rosie the Riveter character represents the women who entered the industrial labor force in large numbers during World War II.

Julia Jones, vice president of Manufacturing, said the number of female shipbuilders has grown significantly in recent years and women have made strides, but there is more work to do. She encouraged attendees to not sit on the sidelines or wait to be “tapped on the shoulder” for opportunities and advancement.

“It’s up to you to set an example for our daughters, sisters, granddaughters and female co-workers because it’s easier to aspire to what you can see,” Jones said. “I challenge all of us to think about how we are encouraging women in our lives – whether we’re raising them or working alongside them. We should think about what we can do to create opportunity and help all people realize their fullest potential.”

She also encouraged attendees to seek mentors and to serve as mentors for others.

Latitia McCane, director of Education at The Apprentice School, said she drew inspiration from the “Rosies” in her family, including her grandmother and aunts.

“As I sat at the feet of those women, I watched them become educated and I watched them become empowered,” she said. “When I am introduced to speak at an event like this, you will hear that I have a lot of education, but there is a lot of pain and a heavy lift behind the education. There’s a heavy lift behind getting into manufacturing. But guess what? I was not going to be denied because I saw so many women around me who were not denied. They were never denied, and it inspired me.”

She encouraged attendees to dream big, write their own stories and invest in their families.

This was NNS’ second Rosie the Riveter rally. The inaugural event was held in 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the event from being held in 2020 and 2021. Donna Diggs (E79), director of Community Outreach on the WiSE Board, said it’s important to pass on the history of Rosie the Riveter and to recognize the contributions of women to shipbuilding.

She said several members of her family have worked at and retired from NNS, and she often encourages others to pursue opportunities at the company.

“I think it’s important for women to realize they have a part, too. It’s not just a man’s job,” said Diggs, who has been a shipbuilder for 38 years. “Even when I was coming up, there was a perception that women didn’t work in the shipyard. But it’s a different world.”