President Trump signed The Rosie the Riveter Congressional Gold Medal Act into law last week. The same week our family grieved the loss of our very own Rosie, great-aunt Magdalene Halladay. The medal will be awarded collectively to the women in the US who joined the workforce during WWII in recognition of their contributions to the United States and the inspiration they have provided to ensuing generations.” It will be displayed at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC.
In Port St. Lucie, Florida, I visited Aunt Mag at her home in March, right before COVID-19 changed the whole world. I was the last family member to see her before she died at age 95 last week. In addition to being a wife, mother, sister, and friend, she was also a patriot, American hero, and entrepreneur.
At the age of 20, Magdalene left her job as a secretary in Chicago and went back home to Door County, WI. The shipyard in Sturgeon Bay put out the call for help in the war effort, and without a second thought, Mag answered it! She was hired as a welder at a starting wage of $.25/hour. During my visit in March, she shared that she was so proud to be doing such an important job that she would have done it for free. In total, the Sturgeon Bay shipyards produced 258 new vessels during WWII. Mag welded the hull section of ships built for the Navy.
In 1943 Mag married a Navy sailor and moved to Boston, where she continued her manufacturing career at Raytheon. Other interesting facts include that she was a published poet and had a photographic memory. Mag “found me” on Facebook about six years ago, and we talked on the phone and shared family stories. I was intrigued by how savvy she was with social media and technology. She was a bright star on our family tree, and so worthy of a Congressional Gold Medal!