CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Buddie Curnutte was just 19 when she went to work in 1942 while men fought overseas in World War II.
She applied for a job with Curtiss-Wright outside of Buffalo, New York, to build airplanes. She had to go to school for six weeks to learn how to use a drill and a riveting gun.
“It was needed that the women would go to the factories,” Curnutte said during a Friday press conference at the state Capitol. “It was very hard work. We used the same tools that the men did. There was nothing light at all. You stood for eight hours on your feet.”
Curnutte, of St. Albans, is just one of millions of women in America who became known as Rosie the Riveters. Today, the Rosies are in their 90s.
Next week, about 35 of West Virginia’s Rosies will be honored during a ceremony in Charleston. The event will be held Thursday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. at the Women’s Club of Charleston.
Living Rosies, elected officials and community leaders will attend the event. It’s free and open to the public.
According to a news release, more than 50 percent of the new women workers took jobs in U.S. factories to produce materials for the war effort. As a result, the Rosies helped open new jobs and opportunities for American women.
Thanks! Plain and Simple, based in Cross Lanes, has been working to preserve the women’s wartime stories and experiences for future generations. Anne Montague, executive director of the program, said it’s important to capture these stories before they are lost forever. Her mother was a Rosie.
“We don’t need to tell their story and put it in a library,” she said. “We need these women to be involved in their community and the community to be involved with them.”
She added, “Buddie and many of the other Rosies have been so instrumental in taking charge of their own legacy.”
Next Thursday’s ceremony includes a presentation by West Virginia Weslyan College Professor Dr. Katherine Antolini and a panel discussion with Rosies Buddie Curnutte and Anna Hess.