Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tinker Statue Commemorates Working Women

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tinker Statue Commemorates Working Women

Article excerpt

When Elizabeth Ward decided to apply for a job at Tinker Air Force Base, it was no precedent-shattering event.

"I just walked in and got my job," she said. "It was because of women like her, that it was that way."

The "her" she referred to was Frankie Collier, 73, who went to work for the Douglas Aircraft Plant, now building 3001 at Tinker, the day she turned 18 in August 1944.

As an inspection clerk, Collier didn't handle the wrenches, tools and rivet guns that gave the name "Rosie the Riveter" to a whole generation of women who took over defense manufacturing jobs to free a equal number of men to fight World War II.

"I worked there until the end of the war, then they just let us go," she said. "There was nothing done about it, nothing said. They just told us to go home, the war was over."

In the 55 ensuring years, Collier -- like so many of her generation -- got married, raised a family and continued with a teaching career.

One thing was missing, though. There was no memorial, no statue, nothing to commemorate the tough work these women tackled during the nation's dark days.

That's been remedied, somewhat. A small statue featuring Rosie the Riveter has been placed the Tinker Heritage Air Park, near the Air Depot Boulevard entrance to Tinker.

Fittingly, the statue rests under the wing of a C-47 -- the workhorse air transport plane that's still in limited service today. Many of the 10,000 women at the bomber plant built the military version of the venerable Douglas DC-3. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the C-47s built during World War II were made in what is now home to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center.

When Tinker Air Force Base was built next to the plant, many of the bombers and fighters that saw service in all theaters of war were rebuilt here.

Most of the work force was women, a giant leap for the time. Women were seen as creatures who should remain in the home, taking care of the children while the man of the household earned the paycheck.

The war changed that because of a dire labor shortage.

"It was the work that these women did that I was able to get a job so easily here," said Ward, a sheet metal mechanic on the -135 series of aircraft that's maintained at Tinker.

The statue, believed to be the only one in the nation, features a woman with a scarf on her head, sleeves rolled up, a strong right arm wielding a wrench.

Faustine Garbrecht, who has a gallery in 50 Penn Place, sculpted the bronze statue that features the face and upper torso that was seen on World War II posters urging women to join the fight.

"It's my right arm, though," Ward admitted.

Collier and several of her colleagues were on hand when the statue was unveiled March 23. Because of a hard rain, the statue was not placed in the air park at that time.

The statue was moved to its permanent location Tuesday.

There is one major difference between the C-47 on display at the air park and what Collier remembers. …

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