Posts Tagged ‘Henry J. Kaiser Richmond Shipyards’

Henry J. Kaiser’s Early Support for Merchant Marine Veterans

posted on November 19, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

War is hell.

One of the grim metrics of conflict is the casualty rate. During World War II no branch of the U.S. Armed Forces suffered as high a proportion as those who served in the American Merchant Marine – and who weren’t even in the military. Merchant mariners suffered the highest rate of casualties of any service, losing 3.9 percent of their 243,000 members, more than the 3.7 percent of the U.S. Marines.

Fore'n'Aft, 1944-10-06

Photo from article about United Seamen’s Service center in San Francisco; Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore’n’Aft, 10/06/1944.

An earlier blog post laid out the background on the role of the wartime Merchant Marine and their struggle for respect and benefits. This year two legislators introduced HR563, the World War II Merchant Mariners Act, which would recognize surviving seamen “for their bravery and sacrifice” and award them $25,000 each.

However, few know of the support that famed World War II shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser offered those mariners during the war, and how that support exemplified his commitment to nondiscrimination in serving communities.

With the urging of maritime unions, the United Seamen’s Service was created August 8, 1942, by the War Shipping Administration with the approval of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It sought to provide facilities for rest, recreation and safety for seafarers who carried troops and war materials to ports in the war zones. Eventually more than 125 locations would be established worldwide.

It was turned over for private operation and ownership on September 13, 1942. Henry J. Kaiser was the first president, and the War Shipping Administration’s Admiral Emory S. Land was chairman of the board. Joseph Curran, of the National Maritime Union, and Harry Lundeberg, of the National Seafarer’s Union, were vice presidents.

Andrew Furuseth Club, United Seamen's Service postcard- 1943

Andrew Furuseth Club, United Seamen’s Service postcard, 1943

“United Seamen’s Service Opens Recreational Club” in The New York Age from October 17, 1942, touted the the first USS facility. The club was named for Andrew Furuseth (1854-1938), a central figure in the formation of two influential maritime unions: the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific and the International Seamen’s Union. A Kaiser-built Liberty ship named for Furuseth would be launched from Kaiser Richmond shipyard number 1 the next month, on September 7.

Officers and men of the American Merchant Marine, many of them survivors of ships sunk by the enemy, cheered as the United Seamen’s Service opened for their exclusive use, the first of a coastal chain of recreational clubs at 30 East 37th street.

The staid, brownstone, four story building, owned by Mrs. Julius S. Morgan and situated within a few doors of J.P. Morgan’s home, was “dressed” for the occasion from roof to basement with code flags and burgees, as a band played nautical airs. Accustomed to cramped accommodations aboard ship, the seamen praised the club’s spacious and luxuriously appointed lounge rooms, game rooms, library, and the dance floor with its modernistic bar.

Speaking at the opening of the club, Douglas P. Falconer, national director of United Seamen’s Service, declared that the neglect of human needs of seamen was a disgrace to the nation. He promised that his organization would do its utmost to “rub out that disgrace.”

"Merchant Seamen Have Own Club" 1942-10-22

“Merchant Seamen Have Own Club” wire photo, 10/22/1942

In describing the program of the United, Seamen’s Service…Mr. Falconer said: “We’ll look after every American seaman picked up by a rescue ship and landed in a strange port far from home. If he needs medical care, well see that he gets it on the spot. We’ll replace his lost clothes and papers, notify his folk at home. We’ll see that he gets proper food and rest and freedom from worry over how he’s going to get back home and on another ship. For that’s all the men themselves ask is a chance to get patched up so that they can go to sea again!

A postcard for the club noted that, in addition to coffee and home-cooked food, the club had “medical and social services staff in daily attendance.” That’s care and coverage together.

 

A January, 1943, article “All Seamen Are the Same” in The Crisis (the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) praised the USS’s impact in the fight against racism and discrimination:

The United Seamen’s Service is outstanding in that the set-up makes no provision for discrimination because of race or creed. Rest homes are planned in many of the southern seaboard communities where merchant seamen will live together without special provisions being made for Negroes…

With the existence of separate USO [United Service Organizations] centers within the army camps and separate canteens for white and Negro soldiers, the action of the United Seamen’s Service presents a lesson in practical democracy that may well be copied by many other groups, including the United States Navy, Army, and Marine Corps.

Henry J. Kaiser was called the “Patriot in Pinstripes” for his contributions during World War II, but his social justice legacy extended to Home Front veterans without uniforms as well.

 

Also see:
The USS / American Merchant Marine Library Association currently

Blog posts:
Thousands of Merchant Seamen Lost Lives in World War II
Henry Kaiser and the Merchant Sailors Union: The Curious Case of the SS Pho Pho

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1QwHP0x
Blog updated 11/20/2015

 

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Rosie the Riveter’s tough image morphs to fit the times

posted on October 11, 2013

by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

This poster, developed by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric in 1943, hardly saw the light of day until rediscovered long after the war ended. Wikipedia photo
This poster, developed by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric in 1943, hardly saw the light of day until rediscovered long after the war ended. Wikipedia image.

Iconic ‘Rosie’ poster gets new life as a symbol of empowerment of women in 21st century

The “We Can Do It!” poster depicting the no-nonsense woman wearing a red polka-dotted bandana with her arm raised and flexed is a familiar sight in 2013. It’s been so embraced in recent years that you might assume it to be the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter that was known and revered during World War II.

But your assumption would be wrong.  This poster, created by Pittsburg commercial artist J. Howard Miller, enjoyed limited circulation during the war and only emerged from obscurity recently as a symbol of women’s empowerment.

For recent generations, the image has represented the quest by women for equal rights and pay at work, equal status with their male counterparts at home, as well as equality under the law.

Rosie the Riveter was the idealized, patriotic woman who gave up domestic life to face the hard knocks of the heavy industrial workplace. More than 6 million American women took traditionally male jobs in the manufacturing of war machines, weapons and munitions to replace the male workers who were called to the battlefield.

War information office creates first image

Rosie is a legend and, as with most legends, her character is a blend of various inspirational women, real and imagined. During World War II she was the “Liberty Girl,” “Their Real Pin-up Girl” and the patriotic girl who produced battle materiel, gladly purchased war bonds to support the Allied forces, and did without rationed items, such as sugar and nylon stockings.

The powerful female image of Rosie was developed under the auspices of the War Production Board to inspire patriotic behavior. The government circulated thousands of posters and fliers that enticed all Americans to take a part in supporting the war effort.

Giving the female war worker the name of “Rosie” probably started with a newspaper story about Rosalind P. Walter, an aircraft factory worker in New York.

Rosie song spawns fascination

The Rosie the Riveter song inspired Norman Rockwell's version of Rosie. Wikipedia image
The Rosie the Riveter song inspired Norman Rockwell’s version of Rosie. Wikipedia image.

Rosalind (P. Walter), today a philanthropist behind many PBS programs, came from a wealthy Long Island family, and went to work on the night shift right out of high school.  The daughter of Carleton Palmer, the president of the pharmaceutical company E.R. Squibb, Rosalind work life inspired songwriters Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb to tell her story in song.

Their creation, “Rosie the Riveter” included the lines: “She’s making history, working for victory,” “That little frail can do more than a male can do.” The Four Vagabonds and swing band leader Kay Kyser both recorded popular versions of the song.

Norman Rockwell, the darling of pop culture illustrators at the time, selected dental hygienist Mary Doyle as the model to give a face to the girl in the song. Rockwell’s healthy, muscular “Rosie” appeared on the cover of the 1943 Memorial Day issue of the popular Saturday Evening Post.

With this exposure, Rockwell’s image of Rosie captured America’s imagination. On the other hand, Miller’s “We Can Do It!” was not associated directly with Rosie the Riveter and was seen by only a few, mostly workers in Westinghouse Electric Co. factories.

Miller used a wire service photo of Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a temporary metal presser in a defense factory in Inkster, Mich., for Rosie’s image. The poster was on display for only a few weeks in February 1943.

Variations of Rosie emerge on Home Front

Other variations of “Rosie” appeared on the Home Front, including Rose Will Monroe, a riveter in Ford’s B-24 Liberator bomber plant in Willow Run, Mich. She was discovered on the job by actor Walter Pigeon and became the star of a government war bonds promotion film. Monroe, a poor widow from rural Kentucky, became a pilot after the war.

Norman Rockwell's version of Rosie as strong, muscular and proud. Wikipedia image
Norman Rockwell’s version of Rosie as strong, muscular and proud. Wikipedia image

Miller’s straightforward depiction of Rosie was later recognized by art historians as they researched material in the National Archives, long after America’s love affair with tough working women ended and Rosie returned to the kitchen.

In 1982, it was featured in an article on patriotic posters in Washington Times Magazine, on the cover of Modern Maturity in 1984 and the Smithsonian Magazine in 1994.

In 1999, a U. S. postage stamp featuring Miller’s image seemed to cement the connection between Rosie and “We Can Do It!”

In 2000, the National Park Service opened a historical park in Richmond, Calif., on the site of four of Henry J. Kaiser’s wartime shipyards. Thousands of women of all races helped to build 747 ships between 1942 and 1945 in the Richmond yards.

Appropriately, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park staff chose the “We Can Do It!” image for its promotional materials and recently added a new version that features a black Rosie.

In recent decades, feminist writers and historians have identified women’s wartime work as a great precedent for the role of woman in the modern workforce. They’ve rediscovered Miller’s formerly obscure poster and grafted the powerful “We Can Do It!” visual to their cause.

 

All Rosies will be honored on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the 7th Annual Home Front Festival in the Craneway Pavilion at 1414 South Harbour Way on the Richmond (California) waterfront. Anyone who worked in war industry is welcome to the Rosie the Riveter Reunion and Photo Shoot at 1 p.m. in the pavilion.

The Home Front event includes live music, historical displays, artisan booths, activities for kids and families, free duck boat rides, tours of the restored SS Red Oak Victory Ship and food and drink. Admission is free.

 Short link to this story: http://ow.ly/pKi2V

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