Posts Tagged ‘child care centers in World War II’

Eleanor Roosevelt visits the Kaiser Shipyards and Hospital

posted on September 18, 2014

Lincoln Cushing,
Heritage writer

 
It’s not every day a first lady visits a Kaiser facility, but it happened in the middle of World War II – and she visited two.

Henry J. Kaiser and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at launching of the U.S.S. Casablanca (Alazon Bay), April 5, 1943. Photo courtesy Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Henry J. Kaiser and Eleanor Roosevelt launching the U.S.S. Casablanca (Alazon Bay), April 5, 1943. Photo courtesy Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Eleanor Roosevelt came to the Kaiser Company shipyard on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington to personally launch the U.S.S. Casablanca, the first in a new class of small, versatile and inexpensive aircraft carriers.

The class was named for the Battle of Casablanca, fought November 8-12, 1942, where the U.S. Navy fought vessels under the control of Nazi-occupied France. The 50 ships the Kaiser yards produced comprised almost a third of the American carriers built during the war and were launched in less than two years.  

The ship was known as the Alazon Bay while under construction and renamed the U.S.S. Casablanca two days before she slid down the ways on April 5, 1943.  Five of the “baby flattops” were sunk in action during the war, and none survive today.

Health care, not warfare

But Eleanor wasn’t just there for the latest in military technology. She was more interested in the social programs affiliated with the massive shipbuilding projects, including child care, prepared meals for double-duty women, and health care.

Henry J. Kaiser listened to her and responded by introducing two controversial (at the time) programs for shipyard workers – model child care facilities near two of the shipyards and pre-cooked meals for working moms.

"USS Casablanca, built by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver" colorized litho print, 1943.  "Donated to Kaiser Permanente by Victor Sork, a shipyard welder."

“USS Casablanca, built by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver,” colorized litho print, 1943. “Donated to Kaiser Permanente by Victor Sork, a shipyard welder.”

As for health care, Mr. Kaiser needed no convincing. Mrs. Roosevelt was given a grand tour of the state-of-the-art Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital built in September, 1942 for the shipyard workers.

Eleanor wrote a regular newspaper column, “My Day.” Her April 7, 1943, entry included this reflection on the Portland visit:

A little after 9:00 o’clock Monday morning we were met in Portland, Ore., by Mr. Henry J. Kaiser and his son Mr. Edgar Kaiser. A group of young Democrats presented me with a lovely bunch of red roses at the airport and then we were whisked off for a busy day.

Our first tour was in the Kaiser shipyard itself. It is certainly busy and businesslike. Everything seems to be in place and moving as quickly as possible along a regular line of production. I was particularly interested in the housing, so I was shown the dormitories and then the hospital, which is run on a species of health cooperative basis costing the employees seven cents a day. It looked to me very well-equipped and much used, but I was told there were few accidents in the shipyards owing to safety devices. The men come in for medical care and some surgery and their families are also cared for…

The ship went safely down the ways at the appointed time and was duly christened. It was interesting and impressive to see all the workers and their families gathered together for the occasion and I felt there was a spirit of good workmanship in this yard.

 
Mrs. Roosevelt was so intrigued with the new medical care program that she wrote Permanente’s founding physician, Dr. Sidney R. Garfield, who happened to be away at the time of her visit. “What is your plan for preventive care?” she asked.

Eleanor Roosevelt visits the Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital, April 5, 1943.

Eleanor Roosevelt visits the Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital, April 5, 1943.

 

“This is the solution of medical care for the majority of people in this country”

Dr. Sidney Garfield replied in a letter May 25, 1943, in which he took the opportunity to explain how aligned the first lady’s vision was with that of the Permanente Health Plan:

I regret very much not to have been present during your recent visit to Vancouver, Washington, and not to have had the opportunity of showing you through our medical facilities and hospitals in the Oakland-Richmond, California area.

Your expression of interest in preventive medicine is rather closely allied with our thoughts for medical care. Mr.Kaiser and I believe that preventive medicine is more important than the curative side. Our medical programs have always been developed with this fact in mind… 

Because of the economy of such a medical plan the cost of medical care to the people is lowered. For the small amount charged at Coulee Dam we were able to provide the best of medical care and pay for the hospital facilities provided in a period of four years. When the cost ofthe facilities is paid for the charge per week to the people can be reduced, or the money used to provide more facilities, added equipment, and for research. Mr. Kaiser and all of us who have had a part in these programs feel that this is the solution of medical care for the majority of people in this country. It is self-sustaining and unites the medical profession, the employer and employee all in one common objective – “to keep the people well and to prevent their illness.”

Your interest in our organization is greatly appreciated. If we can be of further service in answering your questions please do not hesitate to call on us.

Respectfully,

Sidney R. Garfield, M.D.
Medical Director, Kaiser Co., Inc., West Coast Shipyards

 

Years later, Eleanor Roosevelt’s light would shine on KP again.

In 2007 Kaiser Permanente was one of three recipients of the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from American Rights at Work, an advocacy and public policy organization responsible for promoting and defending workers’ rights since 2003. Kaiser Permanente received the award for “creating a management-union partnership based on mutual trust and respect.”

 

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Bay Area Home Front Festival focuses on children of World War II

posted on October 10, 2013
Children had a home away from home in the World War II Kaiser West Coast Shipyards.
Children had a home away from home in the World War II Kaiser West Coast Shipyards.

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

Shipyard history show must go on despite national park shutdown

Americans were worried about the health and welfare of their children during World War II. Dubbed the “Eight-Hour Orphans” because many of their mothers were at work in war industries, young children had to endure the harshness of the Home Front like their parents did.

Special programs for children – many transplanted by parents’ job opportunities – sprung up during the war to minimize the psychological and physical effects brought on by hostilities abroad.

The federal government sponsored child care centers at war production worksites like the Kaiser West Coast Shipyards where the best minds in the country were engaged to develop the curriculum (including art and music) and the environment.

“Failure to provide adequate care for the children of working mothers . . . is probably the gravest home problem we face.  For it would be folly to win the war—and find that we had lost our children,” the Kaiser Richmond Shipyard newsletter Fore ‘N’ Aft asserted in May 1943.

So it’s appropriate that this year’s Home Front Festival should adopt the theme “Kids Can Do It!” to set the tone for this Saturday’s event at the historic Kaiser Shipyards site in Richmond, California. The event in the Craneway Pavilion at the end of South Harbour Way will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Kids were fed well in the World War II Kaiser Shipyards child care centers.
Kids were fed well in the World War II Kaiser Shipyards child care centers.

Sponsored by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the festival will go on despite the federal government shutdown that has kept the National Park Service employees at the Rosie the Riveter park away from work since Oct. 1.

NPS activities planned for the festival, including the opening of “Kids in WWII: Imagination & Reality” in the Visitors Center, have been cancelled. This exhibit will open when the shutdown ends and run through March 2014.

The chamber is sponsoring the Kids Zone that will feature a video game truck, jump-houses, face painting, art projects, games and interactive activities for family members of all ages.

The festival will also feature: rides on 1940s buses to the historic SS Red Oak Victory Ship, live music by five different bands throughout the day, free duck boat tours of Marina Bay, food and drink, and a cornucopia of historical exhibits and commercial booths.

Women and men who worked in war industries during World War II are invited to join the festivities and participate in the annual Rosie the Riveter reunion and photo shoot.

 

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