Proud of East Texas: Hughlene Stokes

Proud of East Texas: Hughlene Stokes

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - "Rosie the Riveter" is a cultural icon representing American women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War Two.

Hughlene Stokes, of Big Sandy, is a "Rosie the Riveter" with membership in the American Rosie the Riveter Association.

Like many American women during World War Two, Stokes went from the farm to the factory. America had declared war after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, but was unprepared to fight against the mighty forces of Japan and Nazi Germany.

"We didn't have anything to fight with, guns and planes. They bombed all those ships and we didn't have anything," Hughlene recalled.

But that would soon change. America, described by Japanese admiral Yomamoto as a sleeping giant, was awakened.

American men were drafted and sent to fight, and American women left their kitchens and began building armament and supplies for the war effort. Hughlene's husband was sent to California as a Navy trainer, and Hughlene got a job in an aircraft factory.

"I just wanted to do my job, that's all. Everybody pitched in," Hughlene said.

Her job was on an airplane assembly line.

"I buffed the rivets. I worked on a part of the body, one side of the plane," she said.

Later, Hughlene was assigned to the more precarious job of installing windows near the nose of the planes.

"I had to climb up a ladder to stand on a wide plank and put that window in that plane. It was scary, it was a cement floor down under me," said Hughlene.

After the war ended, Hughlene and her husband returned to Texas. Many women gave up their jobs to returning servicemen, but the role of women would never again be restricted to the home. They had helped win a war, and proved they could do a man's job.

"When I see those posters, I'd say, well, I'm one of them," Hughlene said.

The iconic poster of Rosie the Riveter became the symbol of American women in World War Two and the Rosie the Riveter association was founded in 1998.

"It's a big park in honor of Rosie the Riveter in Richmond, California, and they have a big monument there," said Hughlene.

Hughlene is a member of the association and her family, including her daughter, granddaughters and great-granddaughters are officially called "Rosebuds," while the men in the family are called "Rivets."

At the age of 91, Hughlene Stokes has a lot to be proud of. She helped win a war, and became an important symbol in American history.

The next "Rosie the Riveter Association" convention is scheduled for this June in Atlanta, Georgia.

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