IBEW sisters from Oregon and Washington marched in Portland's Grand Floral parade, part of the city's annual Rose Festival, dressed as World War II icon Rosie the Riveter.

Members of Portland, Ore., Local 48 have been dressing up as Rosie the Riveter for years as part of the city's annual Rose Festival, which includes marching in the Grand Floral Parade. They even do a rehearsed routine.

Roughly 70 members from Portland Local 48, Salem Local 280, Coos Bay Local 932 and Seattle Local 46 marched in the parade. "It was an honor to represent my union in this way," Local 48 journeyman inside wireman Isis Harris said.
IBEW sisters had the honor of serving as escorts to some of the original Rosies who had worked in wartime factories and were the parade's grand marshals.

But 2023 was different. This time they met some of the women who kept wartime factories and industries running during World War II, as immortalized by the Rosie posters.

"It was an honor to represent my union in this way," Local 48 journeyman inside wireman Isis Harris said of the June event. "I don't think I stopped smiling from the beginning of the parade to the end."

It turned out that the annual Rosie convention, an event put on by the American Rosie the Riveter Association, was in Portland during the Rose Festival, and the parade coordinators wanted Local 48's team of 21st century Rosies to escort the original women who would serve as the parade's grand marshals.

Roughly 70 members from Local 48, Salem Local 280, Coos Bay Local 932 and Seattle Local 46 marched in the parade with their trailblazing World War II sisters riding along on a float. It's estimated that over 2 million people see the Grand Floral Parade each year, Local 48 Membership Development Representative Matt Smyth said.

"It was such an awesome opportunity to participate in the parade," Local 48 apprentice Kayte Krout said. "This is my third year doing it, and what inspires me is knowing that other young women can see all of us and how happy and successful we are as tradeswomen."

For a lot of participants, it's not just an opportunity to have some fun. It's also a chance to spend time with dozens of sisters, something that doesn't often happen on a job site.

"There are few opportunities to spend time with other trade siblings en masse," Local 48 Business Representative Kelly Bond said. "It's always invigorating to have the 'We can do it' energy in the air with all the sisters."

That energy showed up in full force for Local 280 apprentice Rachel Cannon when a member from Local 48 helped her and other Local 280 members throw a baby shower for sister McKaylee Casey at the parade's after-party.

"We took over half a restaurant, and nearly every Rosie in attendance chipped in to buy her an amazing assortment of baby books and toys," Cannon said. "As an apprentice, it's always uplifting to meet female-identifying journey workers, especially all in one spot."

Some IBEW sisters got to meet the original Rosies, now in their 90s and 100s, at various points during the festival.

"It was such an honor and privilege to meet them," Local 280 member Bethany Dickson said. "They are so humble about their legacy."

Local 48 journeyman Leslie Troup said that when she thanked them for all they had done to pave the way for future tradeswomen, they responded by thanking her and her IBEW sisters.

"We were taken aback at first, and I asked whatever they had to be thanking us for, and one woman said for continuing what they had started," Troup said. "It never dawned on me that they would thank us. It made us tear up to think we were like an extension of them."

Bond had the honor of giving the Rosies a Local 48 Rosie-styled pin.

"It was truly one of the most touching moments I will ever experience, seeing the fire and spunk in their Rosie eyes and their pride in leading the way," Bond said.

Local 932 member Maria Hughes noted how the WWII Rosies and today's tradeswomen have had to endure hostility and discrimination on the job, but at the parade they all got to be the recipients of a cheering and congratulatory crowd.

"The welcoming and loud support the crowed showed throughout the parade was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Hughes said. "Seeing such open joy as our fierce ladies passed by and introduced the original Rosies was priceless. And the number of parents pointing us out and whispering in their children's ears illustrates the positive impact we have had on multiple generations."

That impact is already taking effect. Local 48 member Tara Wyman-Smith said that a few months after last year's parade, a young woman told her that she was in the crowd near where the Rosies did their routine and was so moved that she went to the union hall the next week to join.

"Now she's helping build the Ritz-Carlton," Wayman-Smith said. "It feels great knowing we have another sister among us."

Troup said there are always people who want a picture with them, and oftentimes they want a picture of their child standing with the Rosie-clad members. As a Portland native and mother of a daughter who is entering the Local 48 apprenticeship, it's something she takes a lot of pride in.

"It always amazes me when people, men and women, come up to us before or after the parade and say things like, 'The Rosies are always my favorite.' I love those moments," she said. "It's on this day that I'm glad I am a woman electrician."

Troup and Local 48 member Lynn Cuevas said they were invited by the original Rosies to come out to Pearl Harbor for the memorial on Dec. 7 and sit up front with them and march in the parade. Even if they don't all make it out, that feeling of connection and solidarity isn't something that's going to fade anytime soon.

"These Rosies built the foundation for us women working in the trades, and to get that opportunity to meet them was something I will never forget," Krout said. "We have come a long way, and those Rosies were so happy to see us carrying on the legacy they started. One of them actually said: 'Wow I really like your boots. Those are so neat.' They were dirty and grungy from work that week."