'Rosie the Riveter' helps Letterkenny honor Woman of the Year

August 27, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- As millions of American men left their jobs for the armed forces during World War II, the Arsenal of Democracy faced a labor shortage that was ably filled by Rosie the Riveter, those millions of women who left traditional pursuits to build tanks, planes and ships.

One of them was Mae Graybill of Camp Hill, Md., who actually was a riveter on the fuselage line at the Glen L. Martin Aircraft Co. in Baltimore between 1941 and 1945.

"If you didn't go to college, the only thing for women was the garment industry," Graybill said.

When the war started, Graybill went from making pajamas to bombers. During five years on the production line, Graybill, who turns 86 today, and other women helped piece together 5,262 aircraft, many of them B-26 Marauder medium bombers.

Tuesday was the 88th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment providing for women's suffrage, a movement that began in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y., said Kim Raley, the Federal Women's Program manager at Letterkenny Army Depot.


On Tuesday, the depot honored the female workers on Women's Equality Day, presenting its Woman of the Year Award to Sherlyn Rhule.

A 27-year veteran of the depot, Rhule was selected over 14 other nominees for the honor.

"I came to Letterkenny through a college intern program at Shippensburg University," said Rhule, an information technology specialist with the Directorate of Information Management. At the time, the depot was transitioning from a Speedex system using punch cards to an IBM system.

Technology has changed drastically during that time and so has the geopolitical climate.

"We've gone through the BRACs (Base Realignment and Closing Commission) and there was big uncertainty then," Rhule said. As the military was adjusting to a post-Cold War world, the directorate was cut by half following a 1995 commission decision to downsize Letterkenny, she said.

With the war on terrorism, employment at the depot has rebounded strongly in recent years. Rhule said the directorate now provides computer support to depots in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere.

"It's a worldwide mission," Rhule said.

In 88 years, the nation has gone from women not being able to vote to a woman just falling short of the Democratic presidential nomination, Depot Commander Steven A. Shapiro said.

"In history, 88 years is the blink of an eye," Shapiro said. Such progress was made possible by women such as Graybill, he said.

Women make up about 17 percent of the work force at the depot, but "about half the people at my meetings are women," Shapiro said.

Other nominees

The other nominees for Letterkenny's Woman of the Year Award were Deb Black, Vicki Papoutsis, Sylvia Smith and Kate Williams of the Directorate of Maintenance; Monica Dean, Robin Peterson and Dorothy Van Brakle of the Directorate of Public Works; Alisa Heinbaugh and Marcie Hill of the Letterkenny Munitions Center; Sally Helm, Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment; Shirley Ramsey, Directorate of Risk Management; LeAnn Alleman, Directorate of Resource Management; Deb Rockwell, Directorate of Product Assurance; and Karen Wilson, Command Group.

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