It's been almost 40 years since Mae Krier of Levittown started her quest to have the women who worked on the homefront during World War II receive recognition for their immense contributions to the war effort.
Her never-give-up spirt finally paid off Thursday when the United States Senate unanimously approved the Congressional Gold Medal to all the "Rosie the Riveters" who made the planes, ships and other armaments during the war years in the early 1940s.
The medal has been awarded by Congress since the Revolutionary War years to individuals and institutions who make great contributions to the nation.
"Isn't that great," Krier, now 94, asked when reached by telephone about the news. "Both Senator (Bob) Casey and Congressman (Brian) Fitzpatrick called to congratulate me."
Krier said she didn't realized she would "get her nerves up about it" when she heard the news, but sure enough, she could feel the excitement as she sat with her great-granddaughter, Courtney Krier, at her home in Bristol Township.
"The ‘Rosies’ are among our nation's greatest living heroines, and they deserve this long-overdue recognition for their tremendous service to our country,” said Casey.
Casey and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine ushered the medal crusade through the Senate, after it passed in the House last year, thanks in part to Fitzpatrick's co-sponsorship with Congresswoman Jackie Spier, D-California, who introduced the legislation there.
Krier had been visiting Senate and Congressional offices to drum up support for the legislation until last spring when the COVID crisis hit.
Then she got to work making face masks in the same type of red polka dot fabric used for a bandana worn by the model in a famous "Rosie the Riveter" poster made in 1943. Thousands of requests came in for the masks, helping to propel the recognition for the women. Volunteers soon offered to help Krier make the masks.
“I am incredibly happy to see the Senate pass our bipartisan Rosie the Riveter Congressional Gold Medal Act," Fitzpatrick said. " These ‘Rosie the Riveters’ embodied the ‘We can do it’ spirit forever connected with the famous poster. I am especially proud to represent Levittown’s Mae Krier, who helped build B-17 and B-29 Bombers during World War II. Mae’s tireless advocacy for her fellow 'Rosies' helped get this legislation through the House and Senate. I would also like to thank Senator Casey for his partnership on this important legislation.”
Casey said the "Rosies" set an example, “whether they worked on assembly lines, addressed the troops’ medical needs or tended to ships and farms...The ‘Rosies’ are among our nation's greatest living heroines, and they deserve this long-overdue recognition for their tremendous service to our country,” said Casey.
Now that it has passed both the House and Senate, the bill authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal will be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.
“After the war the men would say they would not have won without the women and what we made, but over time, people did not know that. Millions of women dropped everything to assist however we could,"Krier said. "It was not about Democrats or Republicans. It was about saving the country. We made the country realize that women are capable. So I set a goal to make sure we were recognized. I was afraid we wouldn’t make history, but now our hard work has paid off."
Krier said she hopes to go to Washington to see the medal, which should go to the Smithsonian Institution. From there, it may be taken on national tours, said a Casey spokeswoman. She herself worked in a Boeing factory in Seattle making bombers during the war years and later moved to Bucks County since her husband, a sailor stationed in Seattle, came from Trenton, New Jersey.
According to data provided by Casey's office, women in the workforce jumped from 27% to 37% during World War II, with the largest majority in the aircraft industry - some 310,000 women, or 65% of those working in that industry in 1943.
Krier said that Casey marveled at her determination to get the medal awarded to the "Rosies." "When he has a problem, he wants me on his staff," she said he told her.