Sixteen-year old Jessie Thompson reluctantly goes with her mother and older sister to Savannah, Georgia, in the summer of 1943 to work as a welder on the Liberty Ships. Her main goal is to survive long enough to get back to Alabama and finish high school. But will she able to survive when tragedy strikes and she has to learn how to “weld” her life back together amidst the uncertainties of the war?
"Becoming Jestina is a fascinating account of one of the most important and dramatic developments in the quest of American women for equal employment opportunities. Merrill Davies brilliantly explores the role of “Rosie the Riveter” in the success of World War II. Even though these brave women assumed and executed the responsibilities of welders on Liberty Ships at Savannah’s Southeastern Shipyards, their positions were often dangerous and filled with prejudice against them.
Through the experiences of Jessie, an outspoken, feisty, and teenaged “Rosie,” Davies successfully recreates the war-torn world of the 1940s. The book is filled with important and little-known historical information about advancements in the military in World War II, B-17 bombers and other instruments of destruction, as well as social and cultural events that occurred during this period that affected the future of the United States.
The underlying fabric of Davies’ inspirational book is the evolution of Jessie herself. At birth, Jessie had been named Jestina, meaning “just and upright,” but had become known by the nickname of Jessie. An outstanding, empathetic storyteller, Davies allows the reader to travel with Jessie as she embarks on her journey to deserve and reclaim the characteristics implied in her given name, and to prepare for and adopt a profession in which she can help those less fortunate than she is.
Becoming Jestina is certainly appropriate for adults, but ideal for teenagers: highly informative, inspirational, well-written, and very enjoyable!"
Sherrill V. Martin, Ph. D. in Music History
Professor Emerita, UNC Wilmington
Author of Feel the Spirit (1988) and Henry Gilbert: A Bio-Bibliography (1997); currently writing a book on Vladimir Horowitz, commissioned by the Yale University Music Library.
In the photo above Rosies Jane Tucker (right) and Bettiane Harris (left) show up for the first signing of BECOMING JESTINA. Glenda Carroll, a good friend, provides refreshments for the occasion.
"Five or six years ago, I learned that Jane was a real 'Rosie the Riveter,' who had welded on Liberty Ships at Southeastern Shipyards in Savannah, Georgia. Since then I often accompany Jane and her other Rosie friends to presentations they do at schools, museums, and at Kennesaw State University. As I have listened to their stories, I have realized what a difference these women and others like them have made in women’s lives, because they proved that women could do more than be secretaries, teachers, and nurses. The times demanded that they do things that women would ordinarily never do, and as a result, they eventually changed the way women were perceived in the workplace.
All the stories I have heard inspired me to write Becoming Jestina. Jane has been an invaluable resource as I have constructed the novel. Not only have I called her again and again to ask about details in scenarios I am trying develop, but she has voluntarily brought me many books and articles which have been helpful. We also took a trip to Savannah together to visit city libraries and places Jane had visited during the war. In the process of doing research for the novel, I have learned much about World War II that I had never known before. I have included a list of works consulted at the back of the novel, but it may not be complete. Since this is a work of fiction, I have not made footnotes on any particular details, but the list might prove helpful if the reader has questions. "
--Merrill J. Davies