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‘Dot’ May: One of remaining ‘Rosies’

By Staff | Jun 17, 2011

Dorothy May, center, attends the film premiere last Friday with friend Genevieve Hedges and speaks with fellow "Rosie" Ethel Bovey, left, from Martinsburg. (Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel)

Dorothy May, or “Dot” as she likes to be called, can remember a time in Shepherdstown when the Yellow Brick Bank was still a bank and the Sweet Shop Bakery was still Cave’s, the local grocer.

When May was just a 20-year-old newlywed living in a small apartment on West German Street, it was the 1940s and the country had just entered World War II.

For May, getting a job at the regional aircraft factory in Hagerstown was an opportunity to make money for her family during a time when as she said money was scarce.

“It was a blessing to go out an get a job,” she said.

Though what May and many other women did during the war effort would ultimately become a part of American culture and history, May, like many others, didn’t realize the impact she was making at the time.

May is one of the few living “Rosie the Riveters” left.

And with the help of Anne Montague, executive director of “Thanks! Plain And Simple” May and many others like her are now telling their stories.

Last Friday night Shepherd University hosted “Rosies” from all over the country at the film premiere for the “Thanks! Plain and Simple” film “We Pull Together: Rosies the Riveters, Then and Now.”

May, who was featured in the film recounting her experience as a riveter at the Fairchild Aircraft factory, attended the premiere along with her daughter, Jo Ann, and oldest son, Carl.

As May explained, she along with her sister and some family friends set out to find work in 1943.

May, who had gotten 200 hours of wood crafting training at Martinsburg High School while pregnant with her first child was told she could begin work six weeks after delivering her son.

May promptly began working when baby Carl was old enough and started out riveting wing tips before moving up to Plant 1 at Fairchild in Hagerstown.

Though May described the work as challenging, she said she was used to working hard having grown up doing work on her family’s farm in Virginia.

Now retired after 25 years at Corning Glass works, May still keeps busy.

Along with contributing to the “Rosies” project, May fills her time with the things she loves the most, like music, friends and family.

May plays washboard in the “Young at Heart Kitchen Band,” a group of senior ladies which performs at nursing homes, hospitals and reunions.

May, who describes herself as a “bionic woman” having both hips and a knee replaced, said she is still as independent as ever at 89 years old.

May’s daughter, Jo Ann Porterfield, who helped to organize the film premiere last week, said her mother is still “so hardworking.”

Porterfield said that May and the entire generation of women who can call themselves “Rosies” should be remembered most for their work and the real sacrifices they made.

“This war involved everybody,” she said.

Now living in a small house just outside of Shepherdstown, May described her life during the war as “so long ago.”

Though she hadn’t discussed her time as a Rosie much before working on the film, she said she’s glad for the recognition.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “We’re like veterans, I guess.”