Editor’s Note: Rosie the Riveter, an emblem for women flooding the workforce in World War II, became Rosie the COVIDitor as the coronavirus lockdown took hold this spring. With a nod to Labor Day, and Elizabeth Nemirovsky’s endeavor, Happy Labor Day!
Feeling ‘itchy’ as Bedford’s Covid-19 lockdown moved from March into April and her mother entered hospice care, forcing her to quit her job, Elizabeth Leavitt Nemirovsky created an image to display in her front window offering encouragement to passers-by. With little else to do, walking became something of a ‘thing’ this spring and such decorations sprouted all around Bedford.
“Rosie [the WWII riveter and avatar for strong women ever since] was an easy choice as far as an image to start with,” Nemirovsky wrote. “The fun really began when I started to imagine her “ka-POWing” COVID. When the poster was complete it sat in my window for a few days before I felt like it just wasn’t enough.”
“After some discussion with my husband, Sergei,” Nemirovsky explained, “we decided to put some dollars and leg work behind the project to support those impacted the most by Covid-19.”
Long concerned about world food insecurity, the family chose to support the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB.org) because it serves such a large community, along with other local groups/persons adversely impacted by the pandemic. Nemirovsky and her husband decided to structure their gift based on the accumulated distance ‘Rosie’ (now referred to as Rosie the COVIDitor) walked at the rate of $2 per mile. In addition to GBFB their donations have gone to nurses at the Bedford VA, the Bedford Food Pantry, Cor Unum Meal Center (Lawrence), and direct to a local family. A Facebook “donate” button welcomes additional donations to the Greater Boston Food Pantry.
The Impact of Rosie’s Walk
While the gift is important, the larger benefit of Rosie’s walk was incremental, as Bedford watched Rosie walk nearly every day around town and surrounding communities, giving passers-by encouragement and the hope that ‘We Can Do It!’
“My walks have, for the most part, been very solitary and quiet,” Nemirovsky reflected, “but nearly every day had a moment that made it worthwhile.”
Countless thumbs up, car honks, fist pumps, gestures of encouragement, and shouts of ‘thank you’ sustained Rosie on her walk.
A Bedford police patrol car blasted “Best! Sign! Ever!” through its loudspeaker.
A young girl stepped onto the bike path as Rosie passed and whispered loudly to her father, “Daddy, her poster is SOOO pretty!”
A photographer asked to captured an image of Rosie to share with his elderly aunt who had produced a movie about Rosie and who he thought would be pleased to see Rosie in action during a new time of national turmoil.
An older woman shared a story of the comfort she found in a poster of Rosie that hung in her kitchen in the 1970s, at a time when she faced a difficult decision.
A nurse and single mom pulled to the side of the road to share a Rosie tattoo etched in her forearm, along with her children’s names, all which gave her strength every day.
Dozens of moms asked to take pictures to share with their daughters living across the country.
And, continued Nemirovsky, “I can’t forget the woman who, when I emerged from some dappled sunlight along the bike path one afternoon, exclaimed, “I thought you were an angel coming to take me!”
Rosie’s journey finished around 1 pm on September’s final Sunday, 4 months and 500 miles after it began.
Neighbors created a finish line, music played, children cheered, and Rosie’s walk was done.