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Rosie the Riveter Series;
'We considered it our duty.'
by Maricia Mlynek
     

Updated on Wednesday*:

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(This is the first of a series of stories on local Rosie the Riveters, women who worked to support the war effort.)

Dora Emmaline Starcher, daughter of Ida and Emmons Shaffer, was born on Feb. 1, 1919, in Fairmont. She was the oldest of five children.

Her father worked in a factory making milk bottles. Like most families, the Shaffers were hit hard by the depression, and her parents found it necessary to uproot the family.

Dora’s family found itself leaving a comfortable home in town to travel to a new home in rural Calhoun County.

“We moved to Stinson, and Dad farmed with Grandpa. My grandpa was John Franklin Shaffer. Grandma was Josephine. We had cattle, sheep, horses and such. Our house was built of lumber from Grandpa’s sawmill and rock that was quarried on the farm. It was very different from our home in Fairmont. We went from indoor plumbing to an outhouse,” said Dora.

She began her education at Evan Elementary. After moving to Calhoun, she attended Mudfork, a one-room school, and graduated from Calhoun County High School in 1937.

At age 21, Dora married Denver Starcher: “It was July 1940. Denver was a farm boy that crossed the hilltop to me. He was a Clay County boy.”

The following year, World War II began, and the lives of Americans changed, including the Starchers.

“Men were drafted at 18. It took a lot of men from Calhoun County; it took some from factories too,” said Dora.

At the time, Calhoun had few jobs. Denver worked in Permold Co., a defense plant. He worked in casting.

“He was so valuable; they got him deferred when he was drafted. The factory was in Medina, Ohio,” said Dora, who also worked at Permold:

“When they called in women, I went to work there too. Women at the time felt it was their responsibility. I never dreamed of it till the men went away with the war. The reason lots of women went to work was for income. There wasn’t enough money for rent and food. We considered it our duty. We felt helpless, and we knew that the war effort needed us too.”

Dora began working in core making, but moved to office work, “I was the only one who could type. They put me in shipping. We shipped to different war plants.”

She explained that women got paid less than men. Women also had to wear long pants and were supplied with men’s pants and shirts until they were issued coveralls.

Hair had to be worn up because of machinery. A bandanna was also worn over the hair in a triangle and tied up in a bow in the front of the head. Heavy work shoes also had to be worn.

“This time was an important piece of my life. Permold Company won a lot of awards. It flew a special flag, and the Army inspected us. It was a small plant compared to some. Several hundred worked there.”

Dora remembers the rationing of many items during the war: “Shoes were rationed. Gas was rationed, so was sugar, lard, soap, tires, coffee, canned goods, and meat. Some people laugh at older people saving things. During the war we had to . . . You couldn’t buy lard, but you could get mineral oil.

“Two or three of us would go to the drugstore and get mineral oil, which was healthy and tasteless. We used it like cooking oil. One time, I had a closet with three or four gallons of mineral oil in it.”

Due to the rationing of gas, many had to carpool. Dora explained that they called it sharing a ride. Many from Calhoun had moved to Ohio to work in the plants, and on weekends, they would travel together back to West Virginia to visit family.

“We always said that, on holidays, Akron closed down, because all the hillbillies went home. It took us eight hours to get here,” said Dora.

After the war, her husband continued to work in different plants in Ohio. He retired after 30 years of work for Ford Motor Co. in Berea.

The Starchers made several moves over the years and finally returned to the family farm in 1983.

Dora worked other jobs over the years. She was a teacher at the Mudfork school and was a waitress in several restaurants. Later, she served as a library trustee.

“I lived in a time when women were not allowed to work. Men did not believe women should work away from home--or drive. Women were supposed to be nurses or teachers.”

Dora said that the women’s liberation movement did not help women as it should have, and it caused a lot more divorces, latchkey kids, and problems in school: “Personally, I think children need a mother at home through grade school.”

Over the years, Dora has seen more than the evolution of women in the workforce. She has witnessed an evolution of society in general.

She is a testimony of her era. At age 66, she got her very first driver’s license. She has traveled to all of the states except two.

At 90, she continues to be active in Red Hatters, and welcomes visitors to her home from all over.

She has four daughters, 11 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

She recently witnessed her youngest grandchild graduate: “It was a goal to see my children through high school. To see all my grandchildren graduate too was a bonus.”

“Sometimes I feel like I am 120, and sometimes I feel like I am 60,” said Dora.

She still enjoys gardening, reading, and cooking. “I’ve cooked everything but skunk,” said Dora, smiling.

Is there any question that this woman can do it all?

It seems her life has proven that the Rosie motto, “We Can Do It,” is true in every turn of her life.

“You come and see me,” she concluded. “Just call first, ’cause I go a lot.”

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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