Bremerton’s Rosie

Michael Moore (our Michael Moore, not the documentary guy) tells the story behind Changing Scene Theatre Northwest’s Much Ado About Nothing. This version is “Bremertonized,” taking place at the end of World War II.

“Maggie Brazelle (the daughter of cast member Derek Neigemann) was doing some research, and found out there was a song that placed Rosie the Riveter in Bremerton,” Morris said. “So we felt like we could set it locally, and our Rosie the Riveter could be working at the shipyard.”

That Rosie might be from Bremerton caught my interest. I’d pictured her in Long Beach, Calif., near where I grew up. I realize, of course, that Rosie was a symbol, but I’d not made the Bremerton connection.

This photo and the “We Can Do It!” poster appear on a National Park Service online exhibit of stories from the WWII homefront. The site indicates this photo was donated by A. Valene Couch and is from 1943 of Valene Olson, a crane operator at the Bremerton shipyar between 1942 and 1944.

Songwriter Linda Allen did, and in 1984 put Rosie in the shipyard.

I moved to Bremerton in l942
I learned to weld, I was the best one on our crew
The work was hard, the heat would burn my lungs all day
But when the paycheck came we girls would feel OK

The song comes from the album Women’s Work, Allen’s tribute to women’s contributions.

Women’s work has always been more than the jobs we do. We use our strong hands and hearts to build ships, soothe the sick, care for children in and out of our homes, to act as labor leaders, teachers and builders of peace.

Our work encompasses relationships with partners, children, grandparents and community. No less important is the work we do as spiritual seekers, keeping the vision alive.

The song itself is sad. I haven’t heard it, but read the lyrics below.

The play, however, has a happy ending, according to Moore.

As with any of Shakespeare’s comedies, there are mistaken and concealed identities, rivalries and multiple romances to contend with — all of which, somehow, end up with everyone paired off and happy.


Rosie, The Riveter – Revisited
©Linda Allen 1984

My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
that sailed to war
My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
and what was that all for?

In l94l, the war had just begun
Jim was so young, but soon was off to hold a gun
I was nineteen, our child was only three
When the papers said the shipyards needed me

I moved to Bremerton in l942
I learned to weld, I was the best one on our crew
The work was hard, the heat would burn my lungs all day
But when the paycheck came we girls would feel OK

In l943, in August, 8AM
I’d not been feeling well, my mind was filled with Jim
There was a knock, a man in uniform stood there
He said my Jim was dead – I hadn’t seen him in two years

In l945 the war came to an end
And on that very day, the big boss he came in
He smiled and said, “My girls, the boys are coming home
You’ve earned a rest – go home – your work here now is done”

Picked up a scrap of metal, and I carved my name full bore
So my child would know I was a welder in the war
No place to go, I was a widow with a child
So I waitressed and I cooked, and I married in a while

Sometimes I see that scrap with my name carved in so deep
And I recall the day the boss told me to leave
How I felt like some old rag they’d tossed aside
As useless as my patriotic pride

My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
that sailed to war
My strong right arm built the ship, built the ship
And what was that all for?

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