‘Rosie the Riveter’, 100, tours the airplane model she helped build in WWII, being restored by the Seattle Museum

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Helen Mary Vaudrin never thought she would one day see the planes she worked on in her early 20s in a museum collection. But six months after her 100th birthday, she had this chance.

She worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, between 1942 and 1945 at a separate Goodyear factory in Akron, Ohio, assembling the planes that were used in World War II. Her role helped inspire the famous “Rosie the Riveter” campaign to recruit women workers into the industrial workforce. Prior to that, Vaudrin worked at the Arsenal in Ravenna, Ohio, which made gunpowder and fuses.

Vaudrin visited the Museum of Flight restoration center in Everett on Wednesday to see a Goodyear F2G-1 Super Corsair – the same model she helped build during the war.

“We were just doing our jobs like everyone else during the war,” the Everett resident said.

It was there, upstairs in the factory, that she met her husband, who was her supervisor. Vaudrin was joined on Wednesday by three of her seven children and her grandson.

The rally was a late birthday celebration for Vaudrin, who turned 100 in December but was unable to travel due to the pandemic. The family were waiting to see this specific model, which they were working on but had never seen fully assembled except in photos.

The Goodyear F2G-1 Super Corsair was primarily used to hunt kamikaze attack aircraft during World War II. The wings fold upwards to save space on the supports. Only 10 were built, according to Austin Ballard, the senior technician at the Museum of Flight’s restoration center. There are only two left.

Although Vaudrin is now 100 years old, she remains alert and only recently started using a walker, according to her eldest daughter, Barbara Stefanov. Before the pandemic, Vaudrin played bridge up to four times a week. But the lockdown isolation was hard on her and her memory began to fade, Stefanov said.

Talking to her mother about the factory helps refresh her memory.

Earlier this week, Vaudrin reminded his daughter of how, when the war ended, women – who were essential to the war effort – lost their jobs because the men had returned home. But they got a taste of what work could be like, Stefanov told his mother. “This is the last time a woman will be in the kitchen. We are entering the world of work.

The Museum of Flight reopens Thursday after being closed since the start of the pandemic.


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