Phyllis Gould waited 12 years for the moment when she, one of the six original “Rosie the Riveters,” made it to the White House.
Gould, 92, and her five fellow “Rosie the Riveters,” who worked in a shipyard during World War II, were invited by Vice President Joe Biden Monday after a decades-long letter campaign by Gould that began when Bill Clinton was in office.
“I thought we are not going to be here that much longer and we need to get this out,” Gould said of why she asked for a White House invitation. “Because no one else can do it for us.”
“Truthfully, I always thought I would drift through my life invisible to anybody,” she said.
Instead, Gould’s letter to Biden, in which she said her dream was to take a picture with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office, resulted in an invitation for Gould and her fellow “Rosies” to a week-long visit to Washington, D.C.
“This was the start of the first women’s liberation movement,” iden told ABC News’ Lara Spencer as he greeted the Rosie’s. “You see these women working in a factory doing anything any man can do. It began to change everything.”
With their motto, “We can do it,” and their famous red bandanas, Gould and the 20 million other American women who went to work during World War II turned gender stereotypes on their heads.
The riveters worked as welders, electricians and draftsman at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, Calif., as the men fought in the war.
“We stepped out of traditional roles to take on a new one to prove that women can accomplish a lot that we weren’t given credit for,” said riveter Marian Suzey.
During the women’s visit to the White House, Gould not only got the hug from Biden that she asked for in her letter, they all also got a surprise visit from President Obama.
“My grandmother worked on an assembly line while her husband was in Patton’s army,” Obama said of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham. “When the war was over, she was no longer working on the assembly line.”
“What she did was work her way as a secretary, worked her way until finally she became, at the end of her life, the vice-president of a bank,” he said. “The doors were open for her so I am very, very proud to be here.”
The White House visit was not the last stop on the women’s tour of Washington, D.C. The group planned to have breakfast with Biden at the vice president’s mansion this morning and will meet with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi for a VIP tour of the Capitol, followed by other visits to Cabinet offices around the city.