During the war, many women took a wide variety of civilian jobs once filled by men. Canada had its own version of "Rosie the Riveter", the symbolic working woman who laboured in factories to help the war effort.

Many of the Boeing employees on Sea Island were women. Boeing actively solicited women workers, especially after the Americans joined the war in December 1941. Women's smaller physical size and manual dexterity helped them develop a great reputation for fine precision work in electronics, optics, and instrument assembly. The aircraft riveters became well-known and were called "Rosie Riveters".

Rosie Riveters at Boeing

Women at War

two women standing by plane motor

Photo: Vancouver Archives

To work at Boeing on Sea Island during WWII, you first went to an interview at their office on West Georgia Street, in Vancouver. If hired, you were fingerprinted for your ID card and told to buy coveralls, flat shoes or a sensible-type of Oxford shoes. Women had to wear kerchiefs to keep their hair from becoming tangled in the machinery, and Boeing did not pay for any of these. At the peak of wartime employment in 1943-44, Veterans Canada estimated that 439,000 women worked in the service sector, 373,000 in manufacturing and 4,000 in construction.

Isabel Beveridge, Blind Rosie Riveter

four Boeing women employee standing

Photo: Eileen Garcia

In a letter to the Editor published in the November 10, 2004 edition of the Nanaimo Harbour City Start newspaper, Ms. Eileen Garcia wrote that Edna Isabel Beveridge was the first blind woman hired by Boeing Canada to sort and package rivets in their Vancouver war plant. Ms. Garcia went on to say that generous co-workers raised $1600 to send her to New York to determine if she was a candidate for one of the early cornea transplants. Ms. Garcia is the author of the book, "Beyond Jericho, Growing Up Blind and Resilient - The Story of Isabel Beveridge."

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