GLENVILLE, W.Va. — When Ruby Coberly was growing up in Gilmer County, she never imagined herself having a large impact on the nation’s history.
But now at nearly 96 years old, the former Rosie the Riveter is proud of the life she’s lived.
From 1942 to 1945, Coberly worked at the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland, now known as Martin Marietta, where Martin B-26 Marauders aircraft bombers were manufactured.
Only a young woman at the time, Coberly said she didn’t yet realize the significance of the work she was doing.
“Not until it was over, and I got to thinking, and I thought, ‘Well that was a good example of what women can do when they’re needed and have the opportunity.'”
Prior to moving to Baltimore in the early 1940s, Coberly and her family lived on a farm near Glenville.
“I went to high school and a couple years of college and got married,” she said. “My husband was living in Baltimore at the time, so we went immediately to Baltimore and rented a two room furnished apartment for $7 a week.”
Coberly admits that was a bit of a culture shock for her as a young woman.
“That was quite a shock because where I lived in the country, it was green with grass,” she said. “When we got to Baltimore, there was no green; it was all cement.”
Once in Maryland, Coberly’s husband worked in the shipyard, while she worked several smaller jobs prior to Glenn L. Martin.
“At one of them, I had to ride the streetcar,” she said. “I’d never seen a streetcar before, so that was kind of a big job to get on that streetcar before it pulls you in two when you’re trying to get on it.”
She was then hired at Glenn L. Martin in 1942, when the company first started hiring women.
“I was to work with blueprints for awhile, and then they found out that I could type, so they put me in another building where they were making spare parts for the planes,” Coberly said. “We didn’t have a plush office. We just had a typewriter and a desk. I typed identification cards for every piece that was made. It was put on the piece, and then they shipped those pieces wherever they needed them.”
Though Coberly didn’t work on the planes herself, the parts that she worked to label were used to repair damaged planes in the Pacific Theater, as well as the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe.
“So we kept the planes in the air,” she said.
Coberly remembers vividly the spunky way she left Glenn L. Martin in 1945.
“I wanted to come home anyway, but my boss came in one day and he criticized me for something,” she said. “Everybody else was leaving, so I said, ‘Well if you don’t like what I’m doing, why don’t you fire me?’ And he did.”
Though that would be concerning for most, Coberly saw it as an opportunity to return to West Virginia, as her husband had been laid off from his job as well.
Upon returning home, Coberly’s son was born in 1946, and she then went to beauty school in Morgantown.
“We went up there to live for that year, and then when we came back, my husband started working here and eventually he owned two garages here in town,” she said. “We built a new home, and we took one of the rooms for a beauty shop, and that’s where I had my beauty shop for 50 years.”
Now as she’s about to turn 96 years old, Coberly said she misses the time she spent in the workforce.
“I miss the people a lot, but I’m enjoying spending my life here in the little college town of Glenville, West Virginia,” she said.
Coberly said she doesn’t think today’s youth realize the sacrifices that were made by those who served in World War II, whether Rosies on the homefront or soldiers overseas.
“And I think that’s one thing that the Rosies are trying to get before the people, especially women,” she said. “Women came into their own during the war, really, working in the defense plants, and from then on they took their rightful place in the world, I think.”