It’s the beginning of World War II and the All-American Parts Factory must shut down when the workers are drafted into the military. The women, headed by Rosie and the factory’s co-owner Jean, successfully transform the factory, and win a government contract to keep it running. Charlie longs to join the military but is denied due to a medical issue. Lucky for Rosie, he agrees to stay home and train the women to run the factory. Most of the men return home before Christmas, but one wife receives the “dreaded” telegram reporting the death of her dear husband. The local newspaper writes a story about Rosie’s efforts, which gets the attention of some songwriters who produce the “Rosie the Riveter” song. The song gets the attention of Norman Rockwell who paints the famous “Rosie” portrait that makes the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rosie and Charlie finally admit their love for each other and celebrate with their family and co-workers, all singing the “Rosie the Riveter” song. This story is a work of fiction but inspired by historical events.
This script also includes:
Two pages of historical information.
Ten extension activities.
Elizabeth West holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre from the University of Oregon and has worked both onstage and backstage for more than 40 years. Working with her husband Doug, who is a high school drama teacher, she started adapting plays to fit his students. She has now written six plays, many with strong female leads. Married since 1983, she and Doug have 2 sons and 2 grandchildren.
Excerpt from the Play:
Early 20’s, gung-ho, highly motivated, and patriotic.
Early 20’s, wants to be a Marine but a ruptured eardrum as kid makes him ineligible (4F). He trains girls to run factory.
A machinist and Rosie’s best friend.
Retired Colonel Frank:
Factory Owner in his 50’s, married to Jean, called to service.
Factory Owner in her 50’s, married to Col Frank.
Arlene Arnold, Assembly Worker
Charlotte Chapman, Crane Operator
Daisy Davidson, Drafter
Elaine Elliott, Electrician
Lois Larson, Lathe Operator
Mildred Miller, Molder
Millie Mason, Millwright
Peggy Perkins, Pipefitter
Sally Stone, Sander
Wilma Wheeler, Wiring
Special Characters and Voices
Act I Scene 1
Curtain opens to a factory floor. Conveyor belt located mid-stage going off-stage. Supervisors’ office on catwalk SR. RETIRED COLONEL FRANK sits at desk with paperwork. Men are working on the conveyor production.
Need more rivets.
Coming with a bucket of rivets.
Art, heads up … new piston on the belt.
Put another tick mark on the tally.
That puts us past last month’s quota.
My cousin got his draft notice. He is headed to boot camp next week.
With America in the war, won’t we all be called into service?
Some men have already volunteered.
I plan to join the Marines by summer.
Really, Charlie, you’re going to volunteer?
Of course! Just as every red-blooded American man should want to do.
I suppose, but I can wait until my draft notice arrives.
I’ll volunteer with you Charlie. But I’m gonna join the Navy.
I’ve always wanted to be a Marine.
The Marines are always in the thick of things. I’m gonna stick with being a mechanic and fix all the stuff you GI Joes break.
I gotta farm to run with my folks and wife, as well as my job here.
And me and my wife just had baby number 4. Wouldn’t want to leave her all by herself with all that noise and chaos.
Each man will need to do his duty. Some can get deferrals to take care of necessary business at home.
[Enters and crosses to CHARLIE.] I’m looking for Colonel Frank Westwood.
He’s up in the office, use those stairs.
Thanks. [Crosses to Supervisor’s office.]
Looks like that may be the news we’ve all been waiting for.
Ya, that sure looked official.
Frank will share with us if it’s news for all.
[Knocks and enters office.] Sir, I have draft notices for your employees.
I was expecting those. I’ll deliver the news. [COURIER exits.]
[COL FRANK crosses onto factory floor, work stops.]
Well, men. We knew it was only a matter of time until your draft notices arrived. And here they are. [Distributes envelopes.] I am also being called out of retirement to set up training and will be seeing many of you at the local training center. I think we should just clean up and call it a day. We can all go together to the enlistment office and get this taken care of.
Frank, do we all just sign up with the Army? I know a couple fellas who want to be in the Navy, and I want to be a Marine.
That can all be taken care of at the enlistment office. Anyone with special skills will be wanted in specific departments. They need men in all branches of the service. You will all be interviewed and then take aptitude tests.
Sounds good to me. I am ready to serve and get this war over with quickly.
[Conveyor belt is pushed to back wall or out of site to make way for new scene. Light change.]
Act I Scene 2
ROSIE & MADGE enter with table and chairs. Men line up to check in.
Please get in line with your enlistment papers to check in.
I want to sign up with the Army.
I’ll take you over here please.
[Each boy checks in. MADGE stamps each letter and tells boy to see COL FRANK. He shakes their hand and tells them to go get a uniform offstage right. Last boy is CHARLIE.]
Well, hi Charlie, you got your notice too, huh?
Yep. Everyone at the factory did. We all need to do our part.
I know, I … um … we, we will just miss you, that’s all.
I feel the same way. Will you write to me Rosie?
Of course! Every day. You take care of yourself. Promise me.
Sure, just gonna go knock some sense into those Japanese. We’ll be home in no time.
[Looking at CHARLIE’S letter.] Um…Charlie… there’s seems to be something wrong with your letter.
What? What is it?
Your letter is marked 4-F.
What does that mean?
It means there was something in your physical. You didn’t pass. Oh, Charlie, I am so sorry.
Maybe Frank can sort it out. [Crosses to talk to COL FRANK, scene continues.]
This is awful. Charlie is going to be so disappointed.
Ya, he’s been planning to join the Marines ever since the war broke out.
Maybe the Colonel can do something about it. Look, here come the rest of the girls.
[All the Ensemble girls enter]
All right you recruits, say goodbye to your wives and girlfriends. Now fall into line. That’s right, two wide. Step lively. Left, Right, Left, Right. Wave goodbye ladies, you’ll see your men when the war is over. [Soldiers and COL FRANK march off SR. girls waving, some crying]
Buck up girls. They have a destiny to fulfill.
We need to keep our spirits up. They will come home. They will all come home.
[Lights dim. Table and chairs cleared. Conveyor belt is pushed back into place.]
Act I Scene 3
Lights up. JEAN has called a meeting of the women. General chatter.
Ladies, if we could start this meeting, please.
Sure, Jean. We are all pretty curious why you called us together.
Yea, Jean. It’s been hard enough saying goodbye to our husbands and brothers this week.
Well, in a way, that is why I asked you all here. We have another crisis to deal with.
[Sarcastic] Has Canada declared war on us now!
That isn’t very funny Peggy. Seems like this is a big enough war already.
[General grumbling from the group.]
You’re right Mildred, it’s just been a rough couple of weeks. Most of our men have either shipped out already or have their marching orders.
And that brings us to my topic – with the men shipping out, including my husband, I’m afraid I have no choice but to close All American Parts.
[Gasps, groans, exclamations.]
Jean, that is the worst news.
This is the only factory in the county.
But I can’t run the factory alone.
That means the shops and restaurants will close too.
Not just the luxury items either, but the grocery and gas stations.
Not that there will be much gas. We just got our ration booklets and we only get 5 gallons a month.
It could mean the whole town closes.
I’m sorry, but not only are most of our employees in the armed forces now but our raw materials will be diverted to the war effort.
This means my family will probably have to move away.
We will have to move back to my parents in the city.
Can’t anything be done, Jean? I mean have you considered alternatives?
There just aren’t any alternatives.
Ya, Sally, what are you going to do about it? Take your husband’s welding job?
Hey – maybe you’re on to something, Arlene. Why couldn’t we?
Why couldn’t we what?
Do the jobs our men did here. We could operate the factory.