Emmy Lou Packard: Drawing New Conclusions in the Kaiser Shipyards
Exhibition at the Rosie the Riveter National Park September 5th through the end of January 2016
On Saturday, September 5th, Lincoln Cushing from Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources will open an exhibition about the graphic art of Emmy Lou Packard who was employed by the Kaiser Shipyards during World War II in Richmond, California.
The World War II Home Front was truly a setting where “ordinary people did extraordinary things.” One of the best records of that dynamic period was the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft, with news and stories of a war industry in which new workers were doing new jobs in new ways.
California artist Emmy Lou Packard (1914-1998) was on the Fore ‘n’ Aft staff and contributed approximately 100 illustrations. Packard’s work was patriotic without resorting to racist jabs or stereotypes; she portrayed workers with dignity and character. She drew women’s experiences from a woman’s point of view – numerous vignettes are of children (one of her regular subjects later in life), home life, and the challenges of survival and adjustment in a tempestuous time.
This exhibition features large reproductions of exemplary graphic art Packard made between 1944 and 1945, filling in a significant void in Home Front history, art history, and even of Packard’s own documented career.
The exhibition is curated by Kaiser Permanente historian and archivist Lincoln Cushing, and is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with the National Park Service. Many of the images are from the Richmond Museum of History.
The exhibition is displayed in the lower level of the Visitor Center and will be available to the public through January of 2016.
The Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center is open seven days a week from 10 AM to 5 PM and is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, suite 3000, Richmond, CA 94804. For more information and directions to the Visitor Education Center, please call (510) 232-5050 x0 or visit their website. Admission to the Visitor Center and all park sites and programs is free.
If you would like to receive information about upcoming park events, visit www.rosietheriveter.org and sign up for the email newsletter. The Rosie the Riveter Trust is the nonprofit association that is building a community of support for this national park.
Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1EmQ9vN
, Heritage writer
The World War II Home Front demanded huge sacrifices from civilians, and the Kaiser shipyards saw people from all walks of life working side by side. My uncle was an anthropologist at UC Berkeley who spent four years as a marine steamfitter in Richmond; he also wrote for the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft – whose staff editorial assistant was none other than the well-known contemporary artist Emmy Lou Packard.
By the mid-1940s, California native Packard (1914-1998) was already a respected artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had received her Bachelor of Arts at UC Berkeley in 1936, where she had been arts editor of the Daily Californian and the campus literary magazine Occident. She was also the first female editor of the Pelican, the humor magazine. Packard later studied sculpture and fresco painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had befriended renowned Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and after her first husband Burton Cairns’ tragic death in 1939 Packard went to Mexico where she lived and worked with the artistic couple.
During World War II, Emmy Lou became a draftswoman at the Ames Shipbuilding and Drydock Company office in San Francisco, and later moved across the bay to work in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. She first appeared in the Fore ‘n’ Aft masthead on June 16, 1944. Soon, in addition to her editorial work, Packard began to contribute art to the newspaper. She created scratchboard illustrations and drawings, drew a recurring single-frame cartoon “Shirley the Whirley” about an anthropomorphic rolling-and-turning shipyard crane with attitude, and collaborated on a cartoon strip called “Supermac,” which ran from September 8, 1944, through March 30, 1945.
Her debut as a shipyard illustrator in Fore ‘n’ Aft was July 28, 1944, with a powerful depiction of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6 that year. Artillery shells bursting in a night sky blasted above the fold, accompanying a first-hand account by former Richmond shipyard worker Richard Cox.
Although she would continue to create a few more major graphics, her forte became “spot illustrations”– those sweet, tiny images that break up type-heavy pages. Often, but not always, the graphics would accompany a specific article such as tips on workplace safety or healthy eating.
The illustrations were never credited, so identifying those done by Emmy Lou is an inexact process. Her son, Donald Cairns, has helped to try and confirm the approximately 100 illustrations she created over her 15 months at Fore ‘n’ Aft.
Packard’s lengthy obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned the approximately 100 paintings she made of shipyard scenes, but said nothing about her work on Fore ‘n’ Aft. Her son’s website honoring Packard’s career briefly mentions that stint without details, but until now no comprehensive survey of those illustrations has been available.
Such an omission can be explained by the unfortunate art world disinterest in something considered as lowly as labor newspaper illustrations as well as lack of access to the source material. The second limitation has now changed; this essay was made possible by a recent partnership between Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond (California) Museum of History to digitize as many issues of Fore ‘n’ Aft as possible. The graphics displayed here are the fruit of that digital collaboration.
What do the illustrations reveal?
The Kaiser shipyards began making transport vessels for the British government in 1941, before the United States joined the war. Two magazines covered seven yards (The Bos’n’s Whistle was the publication for the Portland, Ore., area Kaiser shipyards), and many of the cartoons and illustrations in the early issues reflect what one would expect from a trade dominated by straight, white, male industrial laborers of the time – sexist, racist, and homophobic.
But as a vastly different Home Front workforce replaced them, editorial sensibilities evolved as well. What a difference it made to have a politically progressive woman wielding a pen. Packard’s work was patriotic without resorting to racist jabs or stereotypes; she portrayed workers with dignity and character. She drew women’s experiences from a woman’s point of view – numerous vignettes show children (one of her regular subjects later in life), shopping, home life, and the challenges of survival and adjustment in a tempestuous time.
When Packard left Fore ‘n’ Aft, the editors wrote a testimonial on October 26, 1945 attesting to her contribution:
“Emmy Lou Packard is a fine artist. She painted the people who work in the yards with a deftness and freshness. But more, she sketched and painted how these workers feel. She pictured man in the complicated throes of the huge shipyards, with twisting pipes and rolls of cable drums, boilers and ten-ton steel plates, and plate shop presses fifteen feet high. Always man was a part of this complexity and always he controlled the huge machines and materials.”
These are but a few examples of Emmy Lou Packard’s previously unexamined yet important work.
Exhibition of Packard’s work at the Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Park, Richmond, Calif., 9/5/2015-12/30/2015
Short link to this article: http://bit.ly/1uB7vLC
These images are from the digital collection of Fore ‘n’ Afts collaboratively produced by Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond Museum of History.
On the Home Front of World War II, the Child Service Centers in the Henry J. Kaiser Shipyards in Portland, Oregon would become one of the greatest experiments in preschool education and child care of the 20th century under the leadership of Lois Meek Stolz.
And medical care was a key component of that program, along with good food service, including carry-out dinners for the families that parents could pick up at the end of their work shifts.
Even before Dr. Sidney R. Garfield was released from the Army by President Franklin Roosevelt to organize the medical care program that would become Kaiser Permanente, a doctor named Forrest Rieke was hired as the first physician in the Portland Swan Island Kaiser Shipyard.
As medical consultant to Stoltz’s project, Rieke witnessed first hand the results of round-the-clock child care for the shipyard families. The experiment, Dr. Rieke told the Oregon Historical Society in a 1976 oral history, was expensive, “as experiments often are” and “very successful.”
The medical outcomes impressed him especially. Children often were malnourished and ill when they arrived with their Depression era, out of work parents. But with shipyard jobs for the parents, child care and medical care for the entire family, their world rapidly improved.
Said Dr. Rieke: “There was no question in any of our minds about what we proved. That was that kids, in these circumstances, thrive. They gain weight, they get pink-cheeked and they start getting happy…This made a great difference, in my judgment, and I’ve said so ever since…”
, Heritage writer
First in a series
Like other underappreciated groups who came home to a seemingly unchanged society, nurses were discouraged and hesitated to pursue their chosen profession due to low pay, low status and poor working conditions. Many nurses chose to be waitresses or factory workers where they could make more money and work more reasonable hours. The exodus from the nursing profession created a shortage of qualified nurses, which would intensify in later years.
Home-front nurses had been content to work without making demands during the war emergency. But after the war, they wanted more. Alameda County nurses had affiliated with the California State Nurses Association (now California Nurses Association or CNA) in 1941 and relied on the association to represent them to East Bay hospitals administrations. But in 1945 these nurses realized that the statewide association had not been effective in bringing them better pay and working conditions.
The association had developed employment guidelines for the benefit of nurses, but the association had no power to force hospitals to follow the voluntary rules. The East Bay Hospital Conference, made up of administrators from 12 hospitals, adopted a “Statement of Policy” regarding nursing issues in 1941, and dropped it after the war emergency was over.
Alameda County nurses form their own guild
Major Edith Aynes, a recruiter from the Army Nursing Corps, gave force to the East Bay nurses’ argument that their profession deserved a better status. Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1946, Aynes spoke about the military model of the registered nurse as someone who performed patient care, while other untrained staff performed peripheral menial tasks.
“Instead of taking temperatures, serving (food) trays, making beds and carrying bath water, the nurse is free to change dressings, give medications, care for sick patients and in general supervise the entire ward,” Aynes said.
Alameda County nurses took Aynes’ message to heart and decided to form their own nurses union in November of 1945. “The objective of the guild will be to establish standards relating to salaries, personnel practice and conditions of employment and to maintain an economic security program for registered nurses, members of the guild,” Kathleen Koepke, president of the guild, told the Oakland Tribune.
In March of 1946, the guild asked the U.S Conciliation Service to recognize the guild as bargaining agent for the nurses in negotiations with the East Bay hospitals. In April of 1946, guild members voted to affiliate with the Public Workers of America (PWA) and the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations), a federation of unions. This was at the same time the CIO and AFL (American Federation of Labor), then separate groups, were fighting in Sacramento over political endorsements for state offices.
Guild appeals to public for support
Soon after joining the CIO, the guild began a public relations campaign to win community support for their demands for better pay and working conditions. “You Needed the Nurse…Now the Nurse Needs You” was the title of the pamphlet the new Nurses’ Guild of Alameda County’s leaders developed and delivered to 8,000 trade unions, teachers, doctors, dentists and other professionals in Alameda County.
In the pamphlet, the nurses laid out their demands: “The immediate goal of the Nurses’ Guild is a collective bargaining contract that will guarantee the nurses a decent wage, reasonable amount of leisure, and fair working conditions …living symbols of our American Way of Life. Standing united, the nurses are determined that, no matter how long it takes, the hospitals must finally recognize the justice of the nurses’ case by signing the contract.
The guild leadership invoked the words of a prominent economist of the time, Varden Fuller, to bolster their case: “There will be no real end to the shortage of nurses in Alameda County until nurses can be guaranteed decent working conditions in hospitals,” Fuller was quoted in a guild press release. “It’s no wonder that so small a percentage of nurses coming out of the armed forces are returning to hospital work. A nurse can go to work in a warehouse or a cannery and earn as much or more money as in a hospital.” The nurses augmented that claim in the pamphlet, declaring that a woman paring and peeling in a cannery made $202.50 and a grocery clerk made $241 per month, while nurses were making $175.
KP’s chief physician Sidney Garfield makes history by signing first nurse contract
The Nurses’ Guild leaders urged the public to write to the hospitals and “let them know you’re in complete sympathy with the nurses’ just requests.” On the list of hospitals whose nurses had voted to be represented by the guild was the (Kaiser) Permanente Foundation Hospital at Broadway and MacArthur in Oakland, the first Permanente hospital, opened in 1942. Permanente administration distinguished itself by being the only hospital representatives that allowed a secret ballot for its nurses to select an organization to speak for them in labor negotiations. Sidney Garfield, MD, Permanente’s founding physician, was also the first to sign a collective bargaining contract with the newly energized nurses’ organization.
The nurses’ initial campaign for labor representation came to a close on August 1, 1946, with the announcement of Garfield’s signing. “Permanente’s historic contract gives working nurses a 40-hour work week for the first time in Alameda County hospitals,” the Guild press release stated. “Besides reducing the former 48-hour work week to 40 hours, the Permanente agreement raises the former basic wage of $175 to $185. The basic rate will go up to $190 on October 1 and $200 monthly on January 1, 1947.” Meanwhile, the California State Nurses Association was negotiating with other East Bay hospitals. Spokeswoman Edna Behrens told the Tribune their contracts called for a 44-hour work week beginning July 1 and a 40-hour week as of January 1, 1947. She said the shortened week would not mean a reduction in the minimum salary of $200 per month.
While nurses felt empowered after the war to pursue higher positions in the field of medical care, not everyone was anxious to embrace them in new roles. A case in point is neurosurgeon Howard Naffziger, who spoke in 1947 at a two-day conference of the Association of California Hospitals at Hotel Claremont in Oakland. “Highly specialized nurses should be called something else, because they have specialized themselves right out of the care of the sick.” He said nurses could learn all they needed to know in two years, or even one year of training. “The needs of the public for nurses exceed the ability of the public to pay,” the renowned neurosurgeon said.
Marguerite McLean, then superintendent of nurses at Highland Hospital and later director of the Permanente School of Nursing, countered his remarks: “Doctors …have had to spread themselves so thin that one wonders what would happen if nurses hadn’t been qualified to step in and take care of the situation,” McLean told the Oakland Tribune. She added that even the practical nurse with less training would need a living wage, which would have to be close to the $200 basic monthly pay of the trained nurse. “Nurses feel they are best qualified to know and understand nursing requirements.”
(Next time: In 1966, Kaiser Permanente nurses stage first work action in California history.)
For more on Kaiser Permanente nursing click here.