March 6, 2020
A Rosie of Our Own.
Patricia Manning Langenberg was a Caterpillar employee during 1944 – a time during the World War II era when women were called to fill jobs typically been held by men. Women like Pat were responsible for keeping the home fires burning, families fed, and the economy clicking while men were away serving in the military.
Rosie the Riveter is often used as a symbol of these women who brought American feminism and economic advantages of women to light. Similar images of female war workers appeared in Britain, Australia and other countries.
Today, Pat is a spry 98-year-old who still lives in Peoria, Illinois. Lee Fosburgh, historian and manager of Caterpillar’s corporate heritage archives, recently caught up with Pat to talk about her time at Caterpillar. On this, International Women’s Day, we pause to honor Pat and those who lead by raising awareness against bias and acting for equality on behalf of all.
Next to former Caterpillar employee Patricia Manning’s senior picture in Peoria High School’s 1944 Crest yearbook, it says, “Pat always flies high.” We believe it, too. Pat worked at Caterpillar more than seventy-five years ago, yet she remembers it as though it was last week – and views it as a sunny day.
Like many girls of her generation, Pat applied and interviewed for a secretarial job at Caterpillar after high school graduation. But once she learned that factory work paid more – and that second shift paid even more yet – Pat chose a second-shift factory job working on the bearing cap line, measuring bearings with a gauge to validate milling.
So, in early 1944, Pat became a Caterpillar employee and somewhat of a national symbol. Pat was part of the influx of women during the World War II era who were called to take positions typically held by men.
It was a time when U.S. factories were busier than ever – many plants having been retooled to support the war effort. Although business was booming, most factories were suffering from a severe employee drought caused by 3.9 million Americans serving in the U.S. military in 1942. By 1944, the number of service personnel grew to more than 11 million.