Eowyn Savela wears the lace collar knitted for Justice Ginsburg. // Photo courtesy of Riveters Collective
For Eowyn Savela, president of the women’s empowerment group Riveters Collective, what started out as an idea from a documentary quickly turned into a dream come true.
Savela said she received a handwritten letter from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she and other members of Riveters Collective mailed Ginsburg a letter and a handmade knit-lace collar for her to wear.
Justice Ginsburg’s response, dated April 5, was written to express her gratitude, reading: “The collar will suit my new robe perfectly … Huge appreciation for an effort that touched me deeply.”
Originally named “Pantsuit Bellingham,” Riveters Collective started as an open Facebook group as a way to keep a “women forward” theme following the results of the 2016 election. The inspiration behind “Riveters” came from “Rosie the Riveter” after her empowerment through women stepping up to get the job done in World War II.
Founded and created by Elizabeth Hartsoch the day after the presidential election, Riveters Collective came from a desire to create a collective mindset. Savela said empowering the group as a whole is the main focus.
“I had a need that other people also had,” Hartsoch said. “I don’t know that there was anything special about me except that I said ‘I needed this’ and I was gonna make it happen.”
For many, the day after the 2016 election was a hard pill to swallow, Hartsoch said. She said she knew that in order for her to find her footing and have a voice, she had to do something. The creation of Riveters Collective at the time was looked at to be a Facebook page of 40 of her friends. She never thought it would turn into what it is today, she said. The Riveters Collective now has over 4,000 members in their Facebook group.
Riveters Collective is a nonprofit brought together by in members Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan County, however, most of the members live in Whatcom County. The group maintains a reputation of being inclusive to everyone, Savela said.
According to Savela, many of the women that run the nonprofit are all working mothers with jobs outside of the group.
“We do this in our spare time,” Savela said. “We are all just regular people… kind of making our way as we go.”
After watching the 2018 documentary “RBG,” Savela said she was instantly inspired. In the documentary, one scene features Ginsburg showing her closet full of mostly handmade collars that people have made for her, which was the start of the idea.
“Seeing that they were handmade and people have made them I thought ‘oh I could do that, I’m gonna do that. Why not?’” Savela said.
Nearly a month went by before the plan was fully executed, Savela said. Early in 2019, Riveters Collective started holding monthly meet-ups at different happy hours and get-togethers around town.
Savela said she finally found time to execute her idea, and after finding a beautiful lace pattern online, she began the project.
“I thought it would be more meaningful if we could involve more people than just me making this thing,” Savela said.
After more happy hours, board meetings and group gatherings, the collar was brought together by multiple people, some only doing a stitch or two.
Little did they know, the power of knitting and a handwritten letter could inspire so much. Hartsoch said she never thought something like knitting would get Ginsburg’s attention.
“In our efforts, all kinds of skills are valuable,” Hartsoch said. “Knitting is a valuable skill in advancing what we’re trying to advance, and if knitting is a valuable skill, then everybody has skills that are valuable.”
Something like knitting is typically seen as a woman’s task, which proves there are stereotypes that come with certain skills, Hartsoch said. Riveters Collectives is starting to break that mold.
“All of these skills and tasks that are traditionally associated with women are valuable in what we’re trying to build,” Hartsoch said.
The efforts behind Riveters Collective have not gone unnoticed. What started as a documentary watch party, a fun hobby and a way to show their appreciation has turned into words of encouragement from Ginsberg herself.
“This is totally craftivism,” Savela said. “We are women-led, regular people, making a difference.”
To the efforts that touched many, Ginsburg’s appreciation are best shown through a handwritten note and a promise to wear the collar.
“The collar will suit my new robe perfectly. I will wear it during the last sitting period of the current term and many times thereafter,” read Ginsburg’s letter.
To learn more, visit https://riveterscollective.org/ and join their Facebook group to support their mission.