When craftsmen at the Boyertown Auto Body Works enlisted in the armed forces in World War II, women stepped in to continue manufacturing ambulances, trucks and trailers for the war effort.
As was the case across the country, Berks County’s home-grown Rosie the Riveters played a vital role on the homefront supplying vehicles to the nation’s troops overseas.
In their honor, the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles has organized an exhibit that features some of the vehicles Berks’ Rosies worked on more than 75 years ago.
“A Rosie Outlook: WWII and the Girls with a Star-Spangled Heart” opens Saturday in the former Boyertown Auto Body Works, the very factory where local women did welding, metal work and other jobs that had been performed by men.
“The company saw the integration of women onto its factory floor workplace during World War II,” said Kendra Cook, museum executive director. “This was a national phenomenon, one fueled by an incredibly successful recruiting campaign.”
The government’s campaign had its own poster girl.
“Rosie the Riveter was the star — a tough-as-nails woman in blue coveralls and a red bandana — ready to fight on the homefront for her country,” Cook said.
Boyertown Auto Body Works built 900 ambulances mounted on International half-ton chassis during World War II, earning a prestigious Army-Navy E Award.
The Army-Navy E Award was given to companies that maintained high quality standards and workmanship in vehicles manufactured for the war effort.
The Army-Navy E Award flag and one of the ambulances are part of the Rosie exhibit.
Also on display is a mobile shoe, textile and canvas repair unit mounted on a Dorsey frame, made in Boyertown. It is one of 2,500 made for the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. About 140 of the vehicles were converted for medical, dental and communications use.
The opening of the exhibit will be held outside the museum from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will feature additional military vehicles not part of the exhibit.
At noon, the museum will unveil its Rosie the Riveter Rose Garden in front of the Hafer Building at Walnut and Third streets in Boyertown.
“Heirloom roses will be planted to honor the Boyertown Auto Body Works’ Rosie the Riveter, and all women who served in World War II,” Cook said.
Photos of women who worked in the Boyertown factory will be posted in the rose garden.
The museum hopes that visitors can identify some of the women. Beth Norton, granddaughter of “Rosie” Carrie Butterwerk, will assist in planting roses.
The outdoor event is free and open to the public. The full indoor exhibit is included in the regular admission price to the museum.