A Real Rosie Story -- Get Your Inspiration Here
INSPIRATION FROM VESTA STOUDT'S LIFE
Nevertheless, She Persisted
We have a real treat for you today--a story of inspiration.
On September 1, the beginning of our Rosie the Riveter Month, we wrote about the original of the We Can Do It! poster and the evolution of the name Rosie the Riveter in our article You Can Vote, But Can You Work?
On September 2, we looked at all the women who were thought to have been the inspiration for J. Howard Miller's poster. That article is: Will the Real Rosie the Riveter Please Stand Up?
Then on September 5, we took a good look at why the We Can Do It! poster shows Rosie wearing a red and white polkadot bandana in our article: What About All Those Dots In this article, we described the bandanas worn by Women Ordnance Workers to keep their hair out of machines. WOW were especially brave because the work was dangerous.
I can't find figures for America, but I did note that about 950,000 women in England worked in munitions factories. What's that? They made weapons like shells and bullets. It was well-paid work because it was dangerous. It also involved long hours and frequently workers had shifts seven days a week. Why was it dangerous? The machines were hard to use, making them dangerous AND the work involved handling highly explosive material.
Bandanas and Duck Tape ... and a WOW Worker
We have a fascinating link for you today between:
And then we add in the story of a:
WOW worker who provides inspiration for all of us.
Bandanas and Duck Tape...
You could say that bandanas and duck tape belong in the same category because they both have numerous and varied uses.
...AND A WOW WORKER
I first learned about Women Ordnance Workers (WOW) a number of years ago while reading about Rosie the Riveters and bandanas worn by workers during WW2. As I mentioned above, munitions plants were dangerous places to work and the women there had the daily concern about potential explosions. Furthermore, the toxic chemicals caused health issues both during the war and for many of the women throughout their lives. Wearing a bandana was required to help reduce static electricity and official ones were issued by the Department of the Army.
One WOW, Vesta Stoudt, had two sons in the Navy and worked at the Green River Ordnance Plant in Illinois. Her primary job was inspecting and packing cartridges used by both the Navy and the Army.
Cartridges Packed in Boxes for Shipment to the War Zone
Eleven cartridges were placed in each box. To ensure moisture could not get to the cartridges, the boxes were sealed with a thin tape made of paper that was then wax coated. One piece of unwaxed tape was left loose so that it could be pulled to quickly open the box.
The problem was that the thin paper often broke leaving soldiers desperately trying to open the boxes in the midst of battle. Not a good idea.
Enter Vesta Stoudt...
Vesta realized that the munitions boxes could be sealed with a cloth waterproof tape and that would solve the problem. It would be strong enough to not break and would let soldiers quickly pull open the box with the piece of tape that wouldn't break. This meant the battlefield solders could more much easily get to the needed ammunition.
The problem was, there was no such thing as a cloth waterproof tape.
Stroudt's supervisors liked her idea but took no action.
She showed her idea to government inspectors and they liked her suggestion, but did nothing.
We're Probably Not Surprised
I can just imagine that the supervisors and government inspectors felt they were giving Vesta a "pat on the head." After all, what could a woman know about product development or innovation. Why would her innovation make a difference in the way ammunition could be used on the front line?
But here is where Vesta Stoudt became a "Nevertheless, she persisted" woman. No one took her seriously but she persisted. How?
She wrote a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 10, 1943 and said, in part:
“I suggested we use a strong cloth tape to close seams, and make a tab of same. It worked fine, I showed it to different government inspectors. They said it was all right, but I could never get them to change tape. I have two sons out there some where, one in the Pacific Island the other one with the Atlantic Fleet. You have sons in the service also.
We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or more to open, the enemy taking their lives, that could have been saved had the box been taped with a strong cloth tape that can be opened in a split second.
I didn’t know who to write to, Mr. President, so have written you hoping for your boys, my boys, and every man that uses the rifle grenade, that this package of rifle cartridges may be taped with the correct tape.”
What Happened Next...
FDR was impressed and forwarded Vesta Stoudt's letter to the War Production Board who took the idea seriously. By March of 1943, Vesta received an acknowledgement of her idea and not long afterwards a letter stating that her recommendation had been approved.
The War Production Board went to Johnson & Johnson to ask them to develop and manufacture such a tape because of their experience in making surgical adhesive tapes. When they began to produce the tape, it was called Duck Tape as water rolled off it and the munitions were kept dry.
Duck Tape as Tool
Duck Tape did the job of keeping munitions dry. AND it became a favorite "tool" in the military. It wasn't long before soldiers found additional uses for it such as:
securing cracked windows,
strapping equipment to their clothing,
fixing broken items,
and the list goes on and on.
The military called the waterproof, cloth-backed, green tape "100-mile-per-hour tape" because they could use it to fix anything, from fenders on jeeps to boots.”
— Margaret Gurowitz, Chief Historian, Johnson & Johnson
A New Use and a New Name
Of course, the end of World War II didn't mean the end of Duck Tape. The housing boom after the war brought about the installation of heating ducts in hundreds of thousands of new homes across America.
Duck tape was quickly found to be the perfect solution for sealing the air gap between lengths of metal duct. Soon Duck Tape was manufactured in silver rather than camoflauge color and became called Duct Tape. And now, you can buy Duct Tape in many colors, patterns, and sizes. I have a drawer full of it as even family members have given me rolls with cute patterns.
So whether you call it Duck Tape or Duct Tape, just be sure to acknowledge Vesta Stoudt for her idea and her persistence. And yes, the Chicago Tribune gave her a War Worker Award for "her idea and her persistence."
Vesta Stoudt's great granddaughter, Kari Santo, is responsible for the research on Duck Tape. We send her our thanks as it gives us an inspirational story of a woman who persisted during World War II. We value Vesta's Stoudt's strength and courage, her commitment during the war, and especially her persistence.
We know. We know.
This duck and dog have nothing to do with Vesta Stoudt's story of the invention of Duck Tape.
But, it's really cute. And who knows. Maybe she was thinking of a pet duck when she invented Duck Tape.
We Call This Our JUST FOR FUN
True, we have our official Rosie the Riveter Bandana (27"by27") and our official Rosie Employment Badge (enamel and hand painted), and our embroidered Rosie name patch with embedded white polkadots.
But sometimes, one just wants a less expensive, but still fun, dress up costume.
That brings in our JUST FOR FUN set.
GET THE ROSIE THE RIVETER LOOK AND HAVE FUN. Makes a great Halloween child or even adult costume. Also fun for dress-up or cosplay.
This 3-item set includes:
Authentic re-creation of Rosie the Riveter’s iconic red and white polkadot bandana (22 inches),
her employment collar button (1.25 inches), and
3 inch Rosie name patch that brings live the ROSIE LOOK with all the fun and none of the work.
HISTORICALLY ACCURATE: Rosie’s bandana was red with a random pattern of white polkadots. Badge showed employee’s image and unique number.
EMPOWERMENT MESSAGE: Rosie was the embodiment of strength, courage, and empowerment. Bandana logo echoes: “WE CAN DO IT!…PASS IT ON!”
IDENTIFICATION PATCH: Rosie may not have worn a name patch, but it helps to identify your costume. Besides, it is fun to wear, especially since we have a unique design with polkadots woven into the name ROSIE. That's right, this smaller size is beautifully woven in twill and uses the same pattern (embedded polkadots in red) as our larger embroidered name patch.
EMPLOYMENT BADGE ACTUAL SIZE: The Westinghouse Electric Service Employment Badges were 1.25 inches so that is the size we use. We went to the National Archives to find an actual badge from Westinghouse Electric Service (the location of the We Can Do It! poster. Then we replaced the worker's photo with the image of Rosie taken from the poster. This brings authenticity and accuracy to the button.