Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Elinor Otto, ‘Rosie the Riveters’ Original, Dead at 104

Elinor Otto, ‘Rosie the Riveters’ Original, Dead at 104

Elinor Otto, the last of the original Rosie the Riveters, has reportedly passed away. She was 104 years old at the time of her death.

According to Legacy.com, Otto passed away on Nov. 12 at a Las Vegas hospital. She had suffered a stroke days before her death. At the age of 22-years-old, Otto was a divorced mother when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She and other women joined the workforce to fill essential jobs while men were at war.

Elinor Otto learned how to use a rivet gun and became one of the original Rosie the Riveters while working at the Rohr Aircraft Corporation. She was building airplanes throughout WWII. However, after the war ended in 1945, she was let go from her job due to the men returning stateside. 

However, in 1951, Otto returned to riveting at Ryan Aeronautical. She continued working on airplanes and later built C-17s at McDonell Douglas/Boeing. She was still working at the age of 95 when she was laid off after the C-17 production ceased. 

In 2017, the same year she was laid off, Elinor Otto had her first chance to ride in a C-17. She was also honored with the Lillian L. Keil Award from the American Veterans Center and named Woman of the Year in her California State Assembly district that year. 

Elinor Otto Say ‘Rosie the Riveter’ Wasn’t a Big Deal For Her and Other Women 

In a 2014 interview, Elinor Otto said the “Rosie the Riveter” popularity didn’t mean much to her or other “Rosies.”

“We thought thought it in those days,” Otto explained. “This Rosie thing came up much later.”

Elinor Otto then said that she and the other ladies were more focused on helping the country as the war continued. “We just knew, like I said, we knew this war had to be won and we had to help because the men were gone. Not until years later did we think we did something special.” 

Otto further spoke to Joan Lunden about building airplanes for nearly 70 years. “I want to make it clear that I didn’t actually retire,” she clarified. “The Boeing plant in Long Beach, CA where I was working is being shut down, and the decision was made to let the more senior employees go first. My section was laid off last November. I was really hoping to continue working there at least for a few more months up to my 50th anniversary at the plant.”

Otto went on to explain that had the plant not closed she would continued working there. “In fact, since I was laid off, I’ve actually had a couple of offers to work – as a riveter!” she added. “I plan to stay busy, since this is what keeps you young!”