Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Memorial Plaza, Bremerton, Washington, USA
Esther Bielmeier’s story is a simple one. She was born in 1900 to German parents who’d settled in the USA. Her father worked in the brewery at Port Orchard, a short trip across the Puget Sound from Bremerton. In 1917, the young Esther, along with her sister Nora, found work at Bremerton’s naval shipyard. Esther’s job was to heat up the rivets that held together the ships of the US navy. Esther worked there for two years, until she met Grover, the fellow shipyard-employee who became her husband. Their son Lyle took a job at the shipyard, too. As did Lyle’s own son, many years later. And there, Esther Bielmeier might have been forgotten by history. Except for a man called Gary Sexton. As he was working as redevelopment projects administrator for Bremerton and in the early 2000s, it was up to him to sift through thousands of photos to illustrate the history of the area and of the shipyard. And he found a photo of Esther Bielmeier heating up her rivets. That old photo was turned into this, the statue at the centre of Bremerton’s Memorial Plaza. And so, Esther’s story lives on, along with that of every woman whose work at the Naval Shipyard contributed so much to the defense of the USA during the First and Second World Wars. A simple story, yes. But a story of which those many women can be proud.