Bessie Young, A Real Rosies

My play, Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation held its world premiere on May 3, 2018 at the Flashback Theatre in Somerset, Kentucky. Rosies performance brought to life characters that I imagined, with the exception of Rose Monroe, who was a Science Hill, Kentucky native and she was cast in a war bond film that was shown before the feature film in movie theaters across the nation.

Too my great surprise, I was introduced to another Rosies that was born in Keavy, Kentucky. Bessie Young, 94, was able to attend the May 5, 2018 performance. When I met Bessie I burst into tears. Here in front of me was a living emblem of everything I believed in. My producer and the director of my play, contacted Bessie’s family earlier in the week to see if they would be interested in attending. Sommer Schoch arranged Bessie’s attendance without informing me as she wanted to surprise me. Surprise does not define the emotions I felt and still do.

After the play, I was able to visit with Bessie and discovered that her life experiences during the war were every bit as interesting as the experiences of my characters in Rosies. What sounded like a romantic tale of adventure and intrigue became Bessie’s life.

She and her sister-in-law took a bus to Indianapolis, IN to work in an appliance factory. From there they worked their way to Detroit, MI where she met her future husband. This meeting was even more fortuitous as he was a London, Kentucky native and they never met while residing in Kentucky .

The most mysterious component of her work during the war was she was employed in an atomic bomb plant. Of course, at the time no one knew what they were building. She said everything was top secret and they were not allowed to talk during their shift.  She said that she did not know it was an atomic bomb plant until many years after the war.

She recalled a curious incident while working there. The bobby pins that the women wore became magnetized. I asked her if that scared her and she said, “No, I never wore those things.”

As I reflect on my meeting with Bessie, I have realized that these women continued to be Rosies long after the war ended. Their independent spirit did not dissolve. Bessie had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The family was and still is her greatest joy. She still quilts, gardens and insists on cooking all the holiday dinners without help.

I asked her if she liked the play and she said, “I loved it, but I have hearing aids. Did you make a book?” I suggested to her that I would be glad to send her a copy of the script. My top priority for today is to take Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation to the post office, so a real Rosies can read it. If there is a more rewarding experience out there, I can’t imagine it.


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