Born in Pittsburgh, PA. Ethnicity: "Croatian-American." Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.S., 1978.
Office—Thomas/Wright, Inc., 7190 S.W. Fir Loop, Tigard, OR 97223. E-mail—[email protected]
Thomas/Wright, Inc., Tigard, OR, president and civil engineer, 1983—.
Don't Call Me Rosie: The Women Who Welded the LSTs and the Men Who Sailed on Them, Thomas/Wright (Tigard, OR), 2004.
Kathleen Thomas told CA: "I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While in grade school and high school, I participated in local Tamburitza groups (Croatian folk music groups). Instruments I played included the prim (similar to a mandolin), the accordion, and the bass. Since I was only a mediocre musician, I decided I'd better find a different career path! Because of my concern for the environment, I decided to become a civil engineer. Today I'm the president of a consulting civil engineering firm.
"Don't Call Me Rosie: The Women Who Welded the LSTs and the Men Who Sailed on Them is my first book. When I was young, I knew that my mother and two aunts were welders in the shipyard during World War II because my mother would occasionally talk about it. I had no idea that the ships they worked on were LSTs, nor did I even know what an LST was. I was very proud that she did this nontraditional job. In 1999, a former crew member of LST 743 somehow found out about my mother and two aunts and asked them to attend the LST 743 reunion banquet being held in Pittsburgh. My mother was so pleased to attend this banquet and receive recognition from the crew. After listening to her talk about the reunion, I decided that I wanted to write a book about the women welders. Finally, in October of 2001, on a visit to Pittsburgh, I interviewed my mother and two aunts. At that time I still didn't know anything about LSTs. I had no idea what shape this book would take. I only had one chapter: the interviews of my mother and aunts.
"Several months later I was having dinner with a few board members of a women's business group. I mentioned that I was writing a book but wasn't sure how to find other women welders. One of the board members told me about Reminisce magazine. I e-mailed the magazine in April, 2002, asking if any of their women readers were welders during World War II and if any of the men wanted to share their stories about the LST. It took approximately nine months before the magazine printed my request.
"I can still remember the day in February, 2003, when I received my first letter from a magazine reader. I then received over forty letters from other readers. Many of the women who wrote were welders in the Portland-area shipyards. They identified with me because I lived in Portland. As I read the men's letters and began researching the LSTs, I soon realized that these boats were made only in certain shipyards. My book outline then took shape. Each chapter would be about the women in a specific shipyard, woven with stories of the men from ships from that shipyard. Of course, I now had many letters of women who were welders on other types of ships, so included them in a separate chapter on other ships and other trades. I also received a few letters from men who served on an LST during the Korean war and included them in their own chapter.
"Many people view civil engineering and writing as mutually exclusive skills, and I like to tell people that I am definitely left-brain. However, to be a successful civil engineer, one needs to be at least a good technical writer. My organizational and listening skills were invaluable for writing a book such as Don't Call Me Rosie."