“Dotty” Foster was born Dorothy Johnson in Lanchester, England, moved to Cheshire County at 10 years olds, and worked in Manchester County during the war, in northwest England. Manchester had a strong industrial history, had the first railway station, hosted the first meeting of the Trades Union Congress, and is where scientists first split the atom and developed the first programmable computer.
She worked at Broadheath in a factory that had converted from making linotype to munitions when she was 14. She says, “I was glad to sweep the floor for the war effort. I became pretty skilled – I learned to run a drill and a lathe, to do milling and filing.”
Dot’s father fought in WWI, after being orphaned when his father, a coalminer, died of black lung disease and his mother died soon after. Her brother was killed on the Hurricane, a ship that chased German submarines.
She says, “There were no dances or ball games or things kids do today.
She fell in love with an American. On their wedding day, since there were no nylon hose, she did what many women did – painted her legs with makeup, then took eyebrow pencil and drew a line up the back of her leg to look like the seam in “nylons.”
Her memories of coming to rural America are vivid and she often talks of the inherent strength of women to see things through. Her first husband died when they had three children. She says, ”By the grace of God, I had wonderful neighbors. In his life we have to be there for one another. I had no family. You have to make you own notch in life, but no one can do it alone. People who haven’t experienced things can’t imagine. It takes tough times to soften you. Particularly women. We can put ourselves in others’ shoes because we have had to endure so much, and often silently.”