Womens History in Peekskill

Did you know that Rosie the Riveter lived in Peekskill? She was Rosie Bonavita Hickey and she worked at the Eastern Aircraft Division plant in Tarrytown, N.Y. If you had attended, “On the Shoulders of Women,” at the First Monday Salon at The BeanRunner Café in Peekskill on March 7, you would have learned this and other fascinating facts. For example, more American civilians died at work during WWII than US soldiers on battlefields.

The art performances of Carla Rae Johnson and Marcy B. Freedman brought out the local arts community to enjoy an event that was both educational and entertaining. Marcy Freedman embodied Sarah Bagley, a “Lowell factory girl” from Massachusetts during the American Industrial Revolution. Wearing a unique dress containing 40 photographs of women activists from the 19th and 20th centuries, Freedman spoke with an Irish brogue, and projected slides illustrating the substandard environmental conditions of factory workers during the early 1800’s. We learned that motivated young women, like Sarah Bagley, sought factory employment, not only for financial gain, but also because they yearned for the independence of working outside the home. Bagley’s story documented the hardships of women workers, but also conveyed the history of collective bargaining as factory girls learned that their bosses were more willing to listen to concerns from organized groups. Freedman created a captivating presence on stage, once again displaying her talents as a colorful storyteller.

Carla Rae Johnson impersonated Rosie Bonavita Hickey or as we know her, “Rosie the Riveter.” Rosie’s story relayed the unfair treatment of many women who served in weapons factories during WWII, only to be displaced when the servicemen returned from battle. Wearing a polka dot kerchief framing her curls and blue workman’s overalls, Johnson was “Rosie” of the famous 1940’s poster. To emphasize the strength of her character during certain key points, “Rosie” struck the familiar fist up gesture of the poster, thus illustrating the “can do” attitude of women. Rae also employed props, such as an ironing board and an American flag. The performance and staging combined good humor with historic, visual and symbolic interest.

March 2016 marks the 6th year for the First Monday Salon series. Kudos to Carl Rea Johnson, the BeanRunner Café and their supporters for sustaining a fun community and cultural event in Northern Westchester.

First Monday of the month Salon 6-8pm at BeanRunner Café, 201 S Division St, Peekskill, NY 10566. For more info on Monday Salons contact [email protected]