KIDS: Rita The Riveter

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F4U Corsair - Rita The Riveter
  {Rosie the Riveter Poster}
Image from National Archives and Records Admin.
Rosie the Riveter Poster
A Woman Working on the F4U-1 Production Line
Select the image to see a larger view
During World War II, most industries in the United States experienced a shortage of men to work in their plants because many were enlisted in the armed forces. Therefore, women were hired to take over the jobs previously done by these men. While women had been employed in factories up to this time, the types of jobs they could fill were limited. Sewing and light assembly were typical jobs assigned to women. Now, women were to prove that they could also do the hard, difficult and technical jobs. 
Rita Reutter 
(November 16, 1918 to July 13, 2012)
One of the women who answered the call for riveters at the Chance Vought plant in 1942 was Rita Stapleton of Bridgeport Connecticut. Rita worked on the F4U Assembly line from 1942 to 1945 as a riveter on the F4U wing trailing edges. Rita was 24 years old, was married and had three children when she began. Here is Rita's Story.
{Riveter Rita Reutter in Front of F4U Corsair}  
Photograph used by Permission of Richard Allnutt Copyright 2005
Rita Reutter (left) with Virginia Quigley 2005
Rita's Story
I was born in New Haven Connecticut on November 16, 1918. The family soon moved to Bridgeport. Elias Howe Elementary School was one of the many schools I attended, with Bassick High School being the last. I left school when I was 17 and went to work because my family needed the money.
In 1942 I answered an ad in the Bridgeport newspaper for a position in the Chance Vought Bridgeport Plant. This plant manufactured the F4U Corsairs, and production was at a high level to support the war effort.
My first job was on the night assembly line at the South End Plant in Bridgeport. I was not a good night worker, so I was transferred to their Stratford facility. It was here that I became part of a riveting team working on the wing assembly trailing edges of the F4U Corsair. My teammate was Virginia Quigley, and we worked well together. 
We worked from 7:00 A.M to 6:00 P.M. with a lunch break. It was precision work that required a lot of attention and skill. There was only a brief training session provided, then they just put you on the assembly line and told you to start work. The most of the training was what you picked up for the other workers.
{Rita The Riveter}
Photo Courtesy of Rita Reutter
Rita Reutter Around the Time She Worked for Chance Vought
I was married with 3 children, 4, 3 and 1 years old, so I arranged for the children to be boarded with friends. I took a special bus to work each day. It was hard, but the pay was much better than other jobs available for women at the time. We wore pants and jackets as a uniform. There was a cafeteria which I liked a lot as the food was good and I didn't have to cook it.
While I worked at the plant, I was a member of the United Auto Workers Union, and I was elected shop steward. I like working with people and helping them with problems.
The job lasted from 1942 until 1945. When World War II ended, all of the women were let go as the jobs were given to the returning men. It was hard to leave, as we had been very proud of our work.
We all get the chance to read about Daniel Boone and Benjamin Franklin in our history books. How much is ever said about the everyday workers who, during World War II, kept our servicemen and servicewomen supplied with the things they needed to keep our country safe?
Connecticut was unique in that our state had many of the resources needed to manufacture a plane like the F4U Corsair. As a riveter on that plane, I never realized how important my work was until I attended the Corsairs Over Connecticut event that took place from June 3 to June 5, 2005 at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, Connecticut. I was very proud to be a part of this celebration and I was also proud of my contribution to this plane.
{Rita Reutter in front of F4U Corsair 2005}
Photograph used by Permission of Richard Allnutt Copyright 2005
Rita Reutter (left) with Virginia Quigley in Stratford, 2005
Rita Stapleton later re-married and became Rita Reutter. She moved to Saint Louis Missouri in 2002 with her daughter and granddaughter. She died on July 13, 2012, at the age of 93, and joined the ranks of our World War II Heroes, both veterans and defense workers, who served their country in its time of great need, and who will now live only in our memories and memorials, but who will never be forgotten. She was a remarkable woman.

Content Last Modified on 9/4/2013 11:30:41 AM