Real-Life “Rosie the Riveter” Looks Back on Service

95-year-old will leave Boeing's Long Beach plant later this month

A Long Beach woman is heading to the nation's capitol this weekend to receive a very special award from the American Veterans Center.

Elinor Otto, 95, is one of the original "Rosie the Riveters" who answered the nation's call for women factory workers during World War II, and will be among those honored for her contributions with the Lillian K. Keil award for Women's Contribution to the Military.

"There's a lot of "Rosie the Riveters" but I'm the only one working," she said.

Otto has continued to build airplanes at Boeing for almost 50 years. She has worked on every single C-17 plane, down to the final one that is nearing completion at Boeing's Long Beach plant.

"I worked on different sections of it of course," she said. As her time at Boeing is finally coming to a close, she said she’s thought about when she got her start.

She said the "Rosie the Riveter" image wasn’t something she and her co-workers thought about much at the time, but it has stuck.

"We never thought about it in those days - this Rosie thing came up much later - but we just knew, like I said, we knew this war had to be won and we had to help because the men were gone," she said. "Not until years later did we think we did anything special."


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The iconic image from propaganda posters urging women to work is still one of the most recognized symbols of female empowerment today.

"I thought, well, I'm going to do men's work. I thought that a long time ago, so I'm not going to try to look like a man," Otto said.

It’s her larger-than-life attitude colleagues said they will miss most.

"She's an inspiration to keep people moving forward," said Sal Gutierrez, a Boeing senior manager of production. "She’s a trooper."

Otto’s last day at the plant will be this month.

"One of my sisters years ago said -- when are you going to retire so we can go traveling?," she said. "I said I don't know. She says ‘What are you going to do? Work ‘till you're 95?’"

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