BATTERY PARK CITY, NY — Elinor Otto worked as a riveter far longer than any of the Girl Scouts in Battery Park City's Troop 3302 have been alive. She went to the factories along with thousands of trailblazing women who worked on the home front during World War II — then stuck with her job until she was 95, when she only stopped because her plant shut down.
Women now hold many jobs they were kept out of then. But Otto, now 98, said it took "many, many years for us to realize that we did something good during the war by working," she said.
"Nobody told us that we were important," Otto said.
On Friday, Otto was at Battery Park when the girls in Troop 3302 sang the words, "We'll be women in tomorrow's history" as they dedicated a memorial garden honoring the "Rosies" and the good they did — paving the way for the generations of women who followed them into myriad industries.
"I learned that women were doubted but they proved that they had strength by using their strength to gain strength," said Chloe, a 10-year-old Junior scout in the troop.
The garden of 10 rose bushes at the park is one of several around the country honoring the women who answered the call for workers to aid the war effort during World War II.
Otto, known as the longest-working Rosie, traveled from California to make an appearance at Friday's ceremony at the World War II East Coast Memorial.
The Battery Conservancy and the nonprofit group Spirit of '45 helped the first- to sixth-grade girls set up the garden over the past several months.
The project involved more than just planting a garden. The 20 scouts also researched the women they were honoring and were asked to gather oral histories of the war from women who lived through it, said Linda Lecomte, one of the troop's leaders.
"They're learning what it meant to not have," Lecomte said. "No sugar, no bananas, lining up for food — these girls can't even imagine that."
The garden earned many of the troop's scouts the highest award they can receive in their ranks — the Bronze Award for Juniors and the Silver Award for Cadettes. Scouts will be able to earn a new "Rosie the Riveter" badge by completing tasks such as working in a Rosie memorial garden, Lecomte said.
The troop also learned leadership skills by organizing and leading Friday's dedication ceremony, a new experience for them because they were used to adults leading presentations, Lecomte said.
Chloe was among about a dozen scouts who spoke during the ceremony. She said she enjoyed memorizing her speech because it "demonstrates how much work went into this event."
Chloe has learned about World War II from her great-grandmother, who worked as a Rosie in Canada. She said she hopes visitors to the garden understand an important lesson: "Women are important in life and they have a purpose."