Florence (DiTullio) Joyce – Winnie the Welder

Sep 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Tales of the Joyce Family

Florence (DiTullio) Joyce, of Quincy passed away on Sunday, September 14th at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth. She was 93 years old and the beloved wife of the late Marty Joyce.

Born in Quincy on May 12, 1921, she was the loving daughter of the late Ettore & Mary (Sforza) DiTullio.

Florence “Woo Woo” Joyce was one of the 1st woman welders to work at the former Fore River Shipyard in Quincy during WWII. She also worked as a Cook for several local restaurants. She enjoyed art, painting and cooking.

Mrs. Joyce was the loving mother of Gail Plant & her husband George, Michael Wilson & his husband Casey Jones, Lynette Stephenson & her husband Mark and Jace Wilson & his wife Shannon. She was the cherished grandmother of Tommy, Eric, Shannon, Sarah, Chelsey, Amber, Meg, Tucker and great-grandmother of Autumn, Michael and Gwen. She was the dear sister of Delia Antonellis.

Visiting hours will be held at the Bolea-Buonfiglio Funeral Home, 116 Franklin Street, Quincy on Wednesday September 17 from 9:30-11:30am. Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend. Funeral service and interment will be private

From the Patriot Ledger

By Jennifer Mann
Posted May. 6, 2009 @ 12:01 am
Updated May 6, 2009 at 6:17 AM

She wore welding spats to protect her legs from the flames. Her helmet, with the name Flo etched across the front, shielded her eyes from the spraying sparks.
With a heavy green welding jacket masking her 20-year-old figure, the long mane of auburn hair was the only clue that a young woman was building ships alongside the men at the Fore River shipyard in Quincy.
The number of women in the work force ballooned 50 percent between 1940 and 1945
The number of women in “defense industries” went up 462 percent from 1940 to 1944
Even so, women still made up only 4 percent of all U.S. skilled workers at the war’s peak
12.1 percent of women with children under 10 were working in 1944; the figure had been 7.8 percent four years earlier
The average weekly wage for female skilled workers in 1944 was $31.21; the average for comparable males was $54.65
Polls showed that most female workers – 61 to 85 percent – wanted to keep their jobs after the war ended
In 1943, with a record 32,000 of their parents building ships at the Fore River shipyard, children met for the first class at the newly opened Jack ‘n’ Jill Child Care Center in Quincy
Source: “The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s ” by Susan M. Hartmann
Still, Florence “Woo Woo” DiTullio Joyce picked up her nickname pretty quickly.
“I was a curvaceous 119 pounds. Every time I walked by, the guys would go, ‘Woo Woo!’” she recalled with a laugh.
It was a groundbreaking time for women in the workplace. Thousands of women took over jobs that had been vacated by men who went off to fight in World War II.
Joyce – she was just Florence DiTullio at the time – led the pack. She was the first “Winnie the Welder,” the moniker given to the approximately 2,000 women who worked at the shipyard during the war.
“When you’re young, you don’t realize the importance of it,” the now-87-year-old said, “but how many people can say they’re the first of something?”
It was 1941 and her uncle, Daniel Libertini, was a sheet-metal worker at the shipyard, which at the time was churning out more vessels than any other shipyard in the country. Libertini told his niece that the yard was thinking of hiring women.
The recent Quincy High graduate, who had worked as a nurse’s aide at Quincy Hospital, decided to give it a whirl.
“I was young and I just thought it would be something fascinating, something different,” she said.
Shortly after Joyce interviewed at the shipyard, four other women were brought in. It was the first wave of “Winnie the Welders.”
To prove their mettle, the women had to take a Navy test that involved welding a metal bar. Joyce and the others passed the test and began training by tack welding in what was called the “L-vent shop.”
“They really didn’t know how women would fare until they tried them,” she said. “Once we were there, they hired women burners, women painters, women everything.”
Joyce’s shift ran from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. She worked in the shipyard’s steel mill most of the time, fashioning steel girders from sheet metal. The pay was $40 a week, although you could make up to $90 a week for production welding.
When she was 22, she told a reporter, “It’s dangerous and tough – tougher than hell. But I love it!”
Her welding jacket bore her nickname.
In the spring of 1942, the U.S. government introduced the Food Rationing Program, which froze prices on goods and limited the purchasing of butter, gasoline, cooking oil, shoes and other products.
Joyce was living with her mother and sister on Washington Street in Quincy. She recalls how silk stockings were particularly hard to find and that they used ration coupons to purchase meat.
She gave a portion of her wages to her mother for living expenses. As many as three or four nights a week, she and her sister would go dancing at the American Legion hall and at USO events. At the Chamber of Commerce, it cost only 20 cents for a night of dancing.
“It was serious because it was the war, but when you were young, it was fun because there were a lot of new people and different things to do,” she said.
Marriage or the war’s close ended many female welders’ work at the shipyard. For Joyce, it was the former. She left the job to marry her first husband, Reginald Wilson, who was a Marine.
But she took her memories with her.
For more information:
For links to Web sites on women’s roles on the home front during WWII, see:http://www.teacheroz.com/WWIIHomefront.htm
For a history on the role of women during World War II:http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/st/~cg3/outline.html
To hear local memories of World War II, see the Thomas Crane Library’s Web site, “Quincy Remembers World War II” at http://quincyww2.wordpress.com
Jennifer Mann may be reached at jmann@ledger.com.

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