STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And it's time again for StoryCorps. This traveling oral history project is recording the stories of everyday Americans. And today we have memories of a real-life Rosie the Riveter.

(Soundbite of song, “Rosie the Riveter”)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) All the day long, whether rain or shine, she's a part of the assembly line. She's making history, working for victory, Rosie the Riveter.

Dot Kelley helped to build ships in Maine during World War II. A divorce prompted her to seek work at the South Portland shipyards. She was raising four children on her own. Dot Kelly's daughter, Joyce Butler, visited StoryCorps to remember her mom's struggle to keep the family together.

Ms. JOYCE BUTLER: After the divorce, there wasn't much money. So my mother worked in the laundry and different places. And she's finally got a job at Montgomery Ward department store. And these young women would come in all dressed in these big boots and these kind of rough overalls. And they would have checks of $600 to cash. And she finally asked one of them, where do you work that you make so much money? And they said in the shipyard. So my mother went over.

And the man who interviewed her said did she want to be a welder or a burner? And my mother said, which pays the most? And he said a welder. And she said that's what I want to do. And he said, oh, mercenary, huh. And she said, no I have four children to take care of. It was bitter cold in the winter going into the bowls of those steel ships. They had to wiggle into narrow across bases and lay on their backs and weld overhead. And I remember her neck and her chest here all spotted with burn marks from the sparks.

And her shift was midnight to 6 a.m., so she could be home with us during the day. I remember her dressing in the heavy clothing, men's clothing. Once she fell and hurt her ankle and they brought her home in the middle of the night and she was weeping. I remember that. After the shipyard closed, she needed to have two jobs to make enough money. And we kids were more or less on our own, and that was not a happy time. But still she was determined to keep us together as a family.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Joyce Butler talking about her mother Dot Kelley at StoryCorps in Portland, Maine.

(Soundbite of song, “Rosie the Riveter”)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) All the day long, whether rain or shine, she's a part of the assembly line. She's making history, working for victory, Rosie the Riveter.

INSKEEP: These StoryCorps interviews were archived at the Library of Congress. And you can listen to some of them at NPR.org.

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