In August of 1945, within days of the Enola Gay dropping the atomic bomb, 15,000 workers were fired from Glen L. Martin. The war was over, and the loyal employees of the Glen L. Martin Bomber Plant were out on the street. Without hesitation, Donita enrolled in business school to learn how to do clerical work .She packed her bags, moved to Omaha, and found a room for rent (Interview Oct 2010). One day at the bus stop, a man started chatting with her (Interview Nov 2010). He did not at all impress her, but he was someone to talk with while they waited for the bus In fact, when he introduced himself, she did not bother to remember his name. Over time, they began running into each other regularly at the bus station. By Christmas of 1945, the movie Going My Way had come out, and he asked her if she would like to go. She thought, “I was feeling exceedingly poor because twenty dollars a week wasn’t cutting it much for me.” This pay cut was especially dramatic after making one hundred dollars a week at the Bomber Plant (Interview Nov. 2010). Donita remembers that she did not like this guy much, but he seemed harmless enough, and she really did want to go to a movie. At the theater, while waiting in the lobby for the previous show to let out, he showed her his military discharge papers, so she was finally able to figure out his name. They continued to see one another for about one and a half years (Interview Nov. 2010).
However, the “happily ever after” does not come yet. The man she had been dating had finished three years of schooling at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL) prior to being drafted. After the war, he had no interest in finishing his degree (Interview Nov. 2010). After some questioning and encouragement from Donita, he still did not want to go back to school. One day she said, “You know, there’s just no reason for us to continue to date. You’re just too lazy for me.” Moreover, for three months, she refused to make a date with him. One night he called her, asking to come to her home. “Nope,” she said, “There’s no reason to come down.” He protested and said that he was coming down anyway He had gotten all of his credits transferred from Lincoln to Omaha University and was registered for classes starting September 1 (Interview Nov. 2010). They married on August 30. The assured way in which Donita told her boyfriend what she expected exemplifies her great spirit and that of many other women. In a time when a young woman should hardly be living on her own, much less telling a man what to do, Donita found a way to make her voice heard, even if she wasn’t the one to go to college.
For the rest of her life, Donita remained an enterprising person even after becoming a wife and mother. For twenty-eight years, she worked as a travel agent. Unlike some travel agents, Donita wasn’t willing to sit behind a desk. Her philosophy was that she couldn’t very well sell tours if she had never been on them Throughout her years working for Lincoln Tour and Travel, she toured thirty-eight countries. . Using planes, trains, ferries, automobiles, and her own two feet, she explored historic landmarks and sacred places the world over (Interview Nov. 2010). The decision to work and travel was a brave decision for a married woman with two children at that time.
When I first met Donita, I let what I had heard about female riveters of World War II color my impression of her. I also let those three years at the bomber plant define what I thought of her. But as I talked with her and heard her stories, the most valuable thing that I learned was to not judge a person on the arbitrary labels someone else has ascribed to them, especially a label that she was reluctant to embrace. The most valuable things I learned came from within the pages of her life. In the same way that the feminist movement of the 1980s has re-claimed J. Howard Miller’s Rosie as a symbol of womanpower, I reclaimed Donita’s story for myself as a reminder of how the real women in our lives find ways and spaces on the