Meet Durango’s own Rosie the Riveter, Anne Isgar.
Isgar turned 99 years old this month, but the longtime Durango resident still has a keen memory of her time supporting the war effort during World War II.
“The bombing of Pearl Harbor made people wake up and realize they have to do all they could,” Isgar said. “I was very patriotic, and I wanted to do something to help with the war effort.”
Rosie the Riveter has become an icon representing the women during World War II who worked in factories and shipyards while men were overseas.
Recently, the U.S. government declared March 21 National Rosie the Riveter Day as a “collective national effort to raise awareness of the 16 million women who worked during World War II.” And earlier this month, the city of Durango passed its own proclamation recognizing the day.
Isgar never shot a rivet, and in fact, most women’s jobs during the war effort did not involve operating a riveting gun, a tool in manufacturing. She did, however, help build P61 Black Widow planes, the first aircraft with radar that were tasked with shooting down rockets headed for Great Britain.
“(Without those planes), there would have been a lot more damage to England,” Isgar said.
Isgar grew up in Durango. In 1941, she was visiting her sister in Los Angeles when she saw an article in the Los Angeles Times that said the military was looking for people to work on aircraft. Out of 100 women who applied, Isgar was one of 24 who made the cut.
“I found myself to be very efficient, very fast and very dexterous,” she said. “And it was a wonderful thing to feel you could put in your time helping the war effort.”
In an era when women didn’t typically hold jobs, working in a factory building fighter jets caused Isgar to become more conscientious and independent. It’s a feat she carried with her throughout her life.
But it wasn’t all rosy. Men received about double the pay of women, and though Isgar didn’t have any firsthand experiences, there were women who experienced sexual harassment. Isgar became a labor relations representative for women to talk about those issues.
“I grew up on that job,” she said. “I got so I didn’t have to have any help from anywhere.”
After the war, she returned to Southwest Colorado and met her husband, Art.
At the time, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad was in danger of closing. So, the couple rode it to Silverton on May 28, 1946, to get married. The Denver Post picked the story up, garnering statewide attention. The next summer, 8,000 people came to ride the train.
The Isgars operated one of the largest ranches in La Plata County near Breen, selling eggs, milk, beef and hay. The family has remained highly involved in the community over the years. The couple had five children, including Jim, a former state representative who died in 2016.
Isgar’s daughter, Shirley, said her mother is proud of the time she spent working during World War II. Now when she sees the iconic Rosie the Riveter poster, there’s a connection.
“She identifies with it,” Shirley said.