Nearly 70 years ago, J. Howard Miller created a poster that would go down in history. It featured a woman, her hair tied back in a bandana, flexing her bicep and declaring, “We can do it!” The poster, designed to recruit women into a depleted workforce during World War II, was displayed in a Westinghouse factory for two weeks in February 1942. There it remained until it was rediscovered in the late 1970s. Since then it has been associated with Rosie the Riveter, the legendary symbol of changing women’s roles in the 20th century.

Back when Miller was creating posters for the war effort, a real-life Rosie was making history as well. Rose Penny Ross, 96, and a resident of the Missouri Veterans Home in Mexico, became a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot in 1943. But it wasn’t until 1977 that she and the other 1,000 WASPs serving in World War II were considered part of the military. On March 10, 2010, Ross and about 300 other remaining WASPs received a congressional gold medal from President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

According to her son Robert of Moberly, Ross was multi-engine rated and qualified to fly planes such as the B-25, the P-38, P-51 and others, including experimental aircraft. Like all WASPs, she flew non-combat missions, and though she had earned her private pilot’s license before the war, she ended her flying career in 1945.

“Mom’s attitude was that she tried to do her part for the war effort,” Ross said. “She did a job that needed to be done and moved on.”

After the war, Rose Penny Ross married and started a family. Robert was born on the family farm in Howard County and during high school had a teacher named Mary Burch Nirmaier. Years later, the late Nirmaier would join Rose as the two WASPs from Missouri to personally receive their long-deserved honor in Washington, D.C.

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