BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Who remembers the iconic Rosie the Riveter of World War II? Well, Bellows Falls native Ellen Jones certainly does. Her mother Margaret Clapper Tidd was a Rosie. After she passed away about a year and a half ago, Jones set out to establish a memorial, not just to her mother, but to all Vermont born Rosies as well.
Rosies were women who took jobs in factories and shipyards, replacing jobs previously done almost exclusively by men. Often they were involved in making munitions and supplies for the war. They were made famous by Norman Rockwell’s portrayal on the cover of the May 29, 1943 Saturday Evening Post magazine of a working clothed, bandanna wearing, woman flexing a very muscular arm named Rosie the Riveter. His image became part of a poster campaign aimed at recruiting more women.
Jones’s mother was born in Bristol, Vt., and found her way here during the war to go to work making jungle hammocks for Lecuyer’s. They ran a dress shop that converted to filling war orders on the second floor of a building that then stood across Rockingham Street from the Miss Bellows Falls Diner.
Tidd also volunteered as a plane watcher at a tower on Parker Hill, part of the wartime security for the industry and rail lines along the river. Historical Society member Larry Clark says, “Margaret stepped up. She adopted this community. She moved here.”
He found an article in the June 8, 1944 Bellows Falls Times that says Lecuyer’s was urgently seeking 75 sewers to make jungle hammocks with mosquito netting. Clark surmises that was when Tidd came to work here. Jones was born after the war. Tidd remained in Bellows Falls and raised three children.
Cathy Bergmann, president of the Bellows Falls Historical Society, says they were happy to have the memorial as part of their labyrinth and poet’s bench area in the park and trails they maintain off Mill Street past their Adams Grist Mill Museum.
Jones had a heart-shaped stone from her mother’s yard moved by her brother to the spot she selected for the memorial, and it has been engraved with her mother’s name and the fact she was “a Rosie.” The stone, a sign with the iconic Rosie the Riveter image, and two rose bushes Jones planted are the focus of the memorial.
Besides the roses, Jones has planted perennials that are doing well and, unfortunately, bulbs and other flora that Jones believes were eaten by ground hogs. There is no water line, and she hauls 22 gallons of water about four times a week for her garden. She hopes of one day having a tank that the Fire Department would come and fill.
Visitors come to the labyrinth to meditate, some regularly, or to view the river and enjoy the serenity of the poet’s bench. Jones is pleased by their favorable reaction. She says, “Who wouldn’t want to sit here for an hour – just gotta get rid of the ground hogs and get water.”
Jones is a member of the American Rosie the Riveter Association. Jones, as a Rosie daughter, is a Rosebud, as are other relatives. There is a Rosie Memorial in each of the 5 states with the Bellows Falls location being the one recognized for Vermont. Jones envisions adding a kiosk with the names of all the Vermont Rosies. She has approached the American Legion for help. Jones says, “I want this to fly. It’s not just important to me, but for every other woman [or relatives of those women] who worked in the war industries from this state.”
To find all the Vermont Rosies, Jones needs help searching for their names. She hopes anyone who knows of a Vermont Rosie will contact her through her Facebook page: “Village of Bellows Falls, VT Chapter Rosie the Riveter Memorial Garden.”