Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland start off Home Front Film Festival with ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’posted on June 9, 2014
World War II-era movies to be shown
on Red Oak Victory throughout summer
By Ginny McPartland
The Sixth Annual World War II Home Front Film Festival gets under way this Thursday, June 12, on the SS Red Oak Victory, which is berthed at the former Kaiser Shipyard No. 3 in Richmond, California.
The 1938 Academy Award-winning film doesn’t have an obvious connection to World War II, but there is one, and it’s not that Errol Flynn was rumored to be a Nazi sympathizer.
National Park Ranger Craig Reardon, host for the festival, will let you in on the largely unknown connection in his introduction to the film.
The SS Red Oak Victory, one of the 747 ships built at the Kaiser Richmond shipyards during World War II, has been restored and made available for tours and special events.
A series of six classic films will be shown in one of the ship’s holds two Thursdays a month in June, July and August.
Boarding the SS Red Oak via the gang plank begins at 6:30 p.m.; the film begins at 7 p.m.
Filling out the screening schedule are:
- June 26: “Buck Privates” (1941), a silly comedy starring Bud Abbot and Lou Costello with music by the Andrew Sisters. This is the film that made Abbot and Costello bonafide movie stars.
- July 10: “Casablanca” (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In the Home Front film festival tradition, come dressed as your favorite character from the movie.
- July 24: “Across the Pacific” (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. Bogart plays a character who makes you wonder if he is a traitor or a hero.
- Aug. 7: “A Guy Named Joe” (1943), starring Spencer Tracy as a reckless bomber pilot stationed in England. Van Johnson plays a novice pilot who needs Joe’s help.
- Aug. 21: “Harvey” (1944/1950), a film based on the 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning play written by Mary Chase to cheer up a neighbor who lost her son in the Pacific Theater in World War II.
The historic ship is located at 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond. For directions, call 510-237-2922 or visit the Red Oak Victory Web site. Filmgoers will be asked for a donation to board the ship.
The ship is not ADA accessible; visitors must be able to climb the gangplank (40 feet of steps with railing) and negotiate steep steps down to the hold.
After 25 years, 500-mile project
boasts 355 miles of trekking track;
celebrates milestone Saturday
By Ginny McPartland
Walking is good for just about everything that ails you, whether you’re young, old, or in between. Tomorrow (May 24) the San Francisco Bay Trail celebrates 25 years of encouraging residents and visitors to get out and use their feet to see the bay and all its natural treasures up close.
The Bay Trail celebration coincides with the unveiling of new exhibits at the Rosie the Riveter National Park’s Visitor Education Center. The joint party will be on the waterfront in Richmond, Calif., beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Fittingly, the Bay Trail organization is releasing its new smartphone application, Point, simultaneously, The mobile app will allow visitors to log in and get a narrated tour of 17 points of interest along the 2.5 miles of the trail adjacent to the Rosie park.
The Richmond Bay Trail smartphone audio tour, first in a series to be released for Point this summer, starts at the Visitor Education Center at 1414 South Harbour Way, Richmond, and ends at the Shimada Friendship Park.
Mobile interpretive tours will be released for trails along the Napa River near American Canyon and for Alviso and Novato sites.
The San Francisco Bay Trail Project, begun in 1989, is a planned 500-mile walking and bicycling trail. When completed, the trail will encircle the entire San Francisco Bay and will link the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties, 47 cities and all seven major toll bridges in the region.
So far, 355 miles have been completed and provide access to points of historic, natural and cultural interest, as well as 130 parks and wildlife preserves totaling 57,000 acres of open space.
After the ceremonies, beginning at 11 a.m., visitors can enjoy a tour of the new Visitor Center exhibits, and participate in a scavenger hunt with great prizes and a WWII-era costume contest. Food will be available for sale and there will be live music.
For directions to the event, see this link: www.nps.gov/rori/planyourvisit/directions.htm
Gala guests to fete traveling Rosies; SF Bay Area girls to benefit
By Ginny McPartland
Rosie the Riveters who broke gender barriers to join the World War II production industry 70 years ago leave a legacy that directly influences the career opportunities of today’s young women.
The older (85-plus) generation’s work experience is especially poignant for those who are coming of age in former war town Richmond, California, where many of the youth are disadvantaged and susceptible to questionable life paths.
It’s fitting then that female Kaiser Shipyard workers, six honored in the Obama White House last week, should be feted at the Rosie the Riveter Trust annual fundraising gala, whose main beneficiary is Rosie’s Girls, a career development program whose catchphrase is: Building Strong Girls.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust supports the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in its work to collect and tell the stories of the Home Front and to preserve historical sites in the Bay Area and the nation.
The park is installing permanent educational exhibits at its Visitor’s Education Center in Richmond, which will be unveiled and opened to the public at the end of May.
Restored cannery setting for fundraiser
The fundraising party is set for 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the F&P Cannery, 1200 Harbour Bay South, Richmond. The restored cannery is near the Kaiser Shipyard site where workers built 747 cargo ships for the Allied Forces in the 1940s and where the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan was born.
Keynote speaker will be Christina Goldfuss, National Park Service deputy director for Congressional and External Affairs. Ms. Goldfuss, a former staffer on the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, took on her new role in November of 2013.
Goldfuss has also served as director of the Public Lands Project for the Center for American Progress, and she has experience as a television news reporter in California, Nevada and Virginia.
JAC’s Vocal Trio will entertain the gala revelers with World War II era songs, likely including “Smooth Sailing,” the official launching song of the Kaiser Shipyards.
For dinner tickets, contact the Rosie the Riveter Trust.
Also this weekend at the Rosie park:
The SS Red Oak Victory volunteers are cooking up the first Pancake Breakfast of 2014 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday (April 13) on the ship berthed at 1337 Canal Blvd, Berth 6A, Richmond. For information, call 510-237-2933.
The ship volunteers have been working on the Red Oak all winter and they are excited to show off their progress. The breakfast proceeds ($7 per person) will help continue the ship’s restoration. Tours of the ship are offered for an additional $5.
The volunteers’ work is chronicled in a new photo exhibit at the Richmond Harbormaster’s Building. The show is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through April 30.
By Ginny McPartland
Six San Francisco Bay Area women will represent female World War II defense workers across the nation when they travel next week to Washington, D.C., to be honored by Vice President Joe Biden.
Thousands of American women, as teenagers and young adults 70 years ago, stepped out of their traditional roles during World War II to build ships, aircraft and other war materiel crucial to Allied victory in 1945. Like the men who fought the war, the ranks of defense workers are thinning out more every day.
Phyllis Gould, 92, a welder in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards in the 1940s, resolved six years ago to arrange for a group of Rosies to go to the White House. Following Gould’s relentless letter-writing campaign, they’re leaving Saturday and will meet Biden in his office on Monday.
Here are brief biographies of the women making the trip:
Priscilla Elder, 93, an electrician in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards, was the third of 11 children raised in Iowa. Priscilla followed her older sister to Richmond after her husband was drafted and sent to fight in Europe with the Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton.
Her twin sister followed Priscilla to California, and they both were hired as electricians to wire circuit boxes on troop transport ships built at Kaiser Shipyard No. 3. Priscilla’s 22-month-old son attended the Maritime Child Development Center, which was renovated in 2010 and reopened as a preschool.
Kay Morrison, 90, a native of Chico, Calif., came to Richmond with her carpenter husband in 1941 to find work. Her husband Ray was hired right away in Shipyard No. 2. She wanted to become a welder but at first she couldn’t get a job because the Boilermakers Union was not yet accepting women.
In 1943, she was hired as a welder and worked the graveyard shift in Shipyard No. 3 with her husband. The couple lived in San Francisco and commuted to Richmond by ferry. After three months, she took the test to become a journeyman (proficient) welder.
After the war, Ray continued his work in shipbuilding and Kay eventually went to work at Bank of America where she was employed for 30 years and retired in 1984 as bank manager.
Marian Sousa, 88, a draftsman in the Engineering Department, is Phyllis Gould’s younger sister. She came down to Richmond from Eugene, Ore., to take care of Phyllis’s young son. After graduating from high school, she took a drafting course at UC Berkeley and was hired to make blueprint revisions at Shipyard No. 2.
Another sister, Marge, arrived later and got a job as a welder; the girls’ mother, Mildred, followed later when her husband, a career military man, was posted to Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg, Calif. She put her youngest daughter in child care and went to work at the shipyards as a painter.
Phyllis and her husband bought a house in San Pablo that, though small, housed the whole extended family. The beds were in use around the clock as family members alternately slept and worked a shift at the shipyards.
Marian Wynn, 87, like Priscilla Elder, was the third child in a family of 11 raised in the Midwest. Her father migrated from Minnesota to Richmond, Calif., in 1942 to become an electrician lead man in Kaiser Shipyard No. 3. She wanted to follow her father right away but agreed to wait until she finished high school.
After graduation, she traveled by bus to Richmond and was hired as a pipe welder in West Storage in Shipyard No. 3. After the war, she didn’t return to Minnesota because she met and married her husband, a Navy man stationed at Treasure Island near San Francisco.
Agnes Moore, 94, grew up on a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, the sixth of seven children. She came to California in 1942 to visit her brother and sister. While driving in San Francisco, she heard a radio advertisement for shipyard workers.
“Women, do something for your country. Go to Richmond shipyard and become a welder,” she recalls the radio announcer saying. The ad spurred her to drive over to Richmond and apply. She was hired in 1942, and in 1943 she passed the test to become a journeyman welder. Agnes worked in the shipyard until the end of the war in 1945, longer than the average Rosie.
Kimi Kodani Hill, granddaughter of artist Chiura Obata and author of a book of his paintings, will show Obata’s work and tell his story in a special event at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park this Saturday, Feb. 22.
The free event begins at 3 p.m. at the Visitors Education Center at the former site of the Kaiser Shipyards on the waterfront in Richmond, Calif.
Obata and his family were among the Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and incarcerated during World War II under Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942. The Obata family was interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Central Utah.
The national park event was scheduled to coincide with the 72nd anniversary of the Executive Order’s issuance, marked as the annual “Day of Remembrance” for the Japanese-American community.
Obata taught art at UC Berkeley
The artist was trained in Japan in the traditional form of sumi-e (ink painting). He came to California in 1903 at the age of 18 and made his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He taught in the art department at the University of California at Berkeley beginning in 1932 and after the war until 1955.
Obata cultivated a life-long reverence for nature as a powerful spiritual force that inspired both his art and his life. He has gained recognition among art lovers and art historians, especially during the past several years.
His paintings are in collections of the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
His two distinct bodies of work have been published in “Obata’s Yosemite” (1993) and “Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment” (2000). Executive Order 9066 empowered the Secretary of War to “prescribe military areas . . . from which any or all persons may be excluded. . . .”
This broad power enabled the forced removal of more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent living in California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
Immigrants from Japan, as well as their American-born children who were citizens, were subjected to forced incarceration in desolate camps for the duration of the war.
The Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, Richmond.
For more information and directions, you may call (510) 232-5050, ext. 0 or visit our Web site.
by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Healthy living benefits, women’s progress, and nursing history among past year’s blog subjects
In 2013, the quest to bring to light the best episodes in Kaiser Permanente’s history led us to a wide range of topics.
Our blog subjects included World War II Home Front stories, a little known saga about pioneering nurse practitioners in Sacramento, and the highlights of the 60-year career of Kaiser Permanente researcher/physician Morris Collen, MD, who turned 100 this fall.
We covered a special event featuring actor Geena Davis that showcased women, including a few Kaiser Permanente leaders, who overcame gender and ethnic discrimination to achieve success.
We got to unearth little known facts about Henry J. Kaiser’s part in the construction of the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge, and we found buried video assets in our archive to tell the Bay Bridge story in film for the first time.
We were also able to produce a video clip capturing scenes of the medical staff who worked with Sidney Garfield, MD, caring for workers at the Grand Coulee Dam site in Washington State in the 1930s.
Healthy lifestyle promotion has deep roots
In our collaboration with the National Park Service, we enjoyed an opportunity to revisit the surprising benefits of food rationing during World War II. We also carried stories of the Rosie the Riveter Trust and its funding of community projects in Richmond, Calif., including “Rosie’s Girls”, an initiative to motivate girls from low-income families in their career choices.
Also, in Richmond, we participated in the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr., volunteer day with Urban Tilth, a growing community garden project that harvests a crop of fresh fruits and vegetables for local consumption. Healthy lifestyles also got a push with a blog about the health benefits of walking.
Mining for history nuggets
For Lincoln Cushing, a highlight of the year was the opportunity to interview Jim Gersbach, Senior Hospital Communication Consultant for the Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region.
Gersbach, who was with Kaiser Permanente for 27 years, lived through much of our history and has an amazing understanding of the organization.
The Gersbach interview will find its way into Kaiser Permanente’s collection of its leaders’ oral histories, many developed by UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office. Here’s a taste of the conversation with Gersbach:
“Having worked (at Kaiser Permanente) for a quarter century, I strangely enough find that I have personal memories about what have now become historical periods of time.
“We’ve been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years, even back in the 1940s. (Looking back on our history), it’s really about asking, “What are (Kaiser Permanente’s) consistent values that don’t change over time?”
Collaborating to tell our story
Over the past year, we’ve collaborated with our partners at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park to help tell the Kaiser Permanente origins story in the permanent museum displays to be unveiled in the spring. In 2014, we will carry stories in our blog about news and events at the budding park.
We also look forward to sharing the stories about the opening of the Oakland Medical Center’s historical displays within the state-of-the-art hospital to open in 2014.
We’ve worked with the medical center staff to congregate assets for dynamic displays to tell the multifaceted 75-year history of Kaiser Permanente, including a section on the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing.
Heritage staff has supplied historical photos and factual material for other publications, including the Kaiser Permanente Procurement and Supply Department’s print newsletter, The Source, which won a national award.
We also contributed to materials developed by the Kaiser Permanente Latino Association and the Labor Management Partnership, which carried several short articles about labor history in the magazine Hank.
Other assets surfacing this year in Kaiser Permanente archives allowed the detailing of Henry J. Kaiser’s role in construction of the Caldecott Tunnel and his pioneering in broadcasting during the 1960s.
We’ve also found material that allowed us to tell tales of Kaiser’s strong personal interest in speedboat racing, and to offer glimpses into his exploits in the manufacture of cars, such as the racing Henry J and the Darrin sports car that caused a stir in the 1950s.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
I want to say goodbye to a gracious and remarkable woman who helped carry the Henry J. Kaiser legacy forward into the 21st Century. Barbara Kaiser, the widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., passed away in late September.
Barbara “Bobbie” Kaiser was married to Henry J. Kaiser’s second son, Henry, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1944 and died in 1961 at age 44 despite his father’s best efforts to find a cure.
Bobbie, as she liked to be called by everyone, survived her husband by more than 50 years.
In those years, she continued the Kaiser involvement in community affairs, helped to found a thriving Episcopal congregation in Oakland, Calif., and supported the celebration of Henry J. Kaiser’s epic history of shipbuilding during World War II in Richmond, Calif.
She also branched out on her own as an apprentice architect studying in the 1970s at the famed Frank Lloyd Wright school at Taliesin West, Arizona.
Getting to know Bobbie
For a few months in 2010, my life intersected with Bobbie’s, and I shall always remember her as the woman who – accustomed to a chauffeur-driven limousine – didn’t mind riding in my VW Beetle, invited me for lunch and explained to me how Cobb Salad came about.
She knew about Cobb Salad’s legendary origin at the famous Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles because she was there, along with others who moved in Hollywood circles.
Barbara Preininger was working as a stewardess and assistant to entertainer Dennis Day when she met Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. They married in 1947. At the time, Henry was managing the Kaiser-Frazer division of the Kaiser Motors Corporation.
The couple lived for a time in one of the Kaiser Community Homes in Panorama City. In 1951, they moved to Oakland and Henry was responsible for the Kaiser Companies public relations program. In 1952 they had a son, Henry J. Kaiser, III, who has become a musician and filmmaker.
I met Bobbie through Kaiser Permanente Heritage Director Bryan Culp who knew her from the St. John’s Episcopal congregation. He suggested I contact her about the upcoming Home Front festival in Richmond to invite her to come along as our guest. She was delighted.
As it turned out, Bobbie and I were neighbors, so I just had to swing by to pick her up from the senior citizens building where she lived. When I got there, the doorman escorted her out to the car. She was dressed fabulously.
In a lovely, rich red wrap, black pants and top with beaded fringe about the bottoms and stylish shoes. She was sporting a gorgeous straw hat – a trademark for Bobbie – and her face was beaming from underneath it.
At the festival, the National Park Service rangers greeted her with reverence and invited her to sit in “Rosie’s Corner,” an area approximating a 1940s parlor, for photographs. Later she browsed the festival booths on her own, seeming to read every word on historical displays. She took every opportunity to speak to festival-goers and staffers throughout the day.
Relishing the fruit of her labor
A few weeks later, the Heritage team, led by former director Tom Debley, and Elizabeth Sandel, MD, took Bobbie on a tour of the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, Calif. Sandel was chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the center, which moved in 2010 to a new, totally updated building.
Bobbie’s visit to the rehab center could not have been more relevant. She played a significant role in the development of the early techniques used at the first center, which was established in 1946 to treat her husband and others who had neuromuscular diseases.
With an opportunity to speak with the rehab staff, Bobbie described the regimen she used every day to help her husband get through the day. “Every morning, we would fill the bathtub with ice and Henry would get in . . . it really helped,” she recalled. “If we were traveling we’d ask the hotel to bring us buckets of ice.”
Again, Bobbie illustrated her keen curiosity by viewing up close many of the art pieces in the center. She talked to patients and told them the story of her husband and her familiarity with rehab therapies.
She had a chance to see the two gyms for rehab patients and the outdoor patio with steps for patients to practice their mobility skills. She posed with the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan automobile that sits on the grounds and is used to teach patients to transfer from wheelchair to car.
Dr. Sandel confirms that the icing method is still used in the rehab center. A trained oral historian, Dr. Sandel, now retired, planned to interview Bobbie but never had the opportunity due to Bobbie’s recent illness.
The last time I saw Bobbie it was pouring rain. She invited me to visit her home for an interview. I went with her to the hairdresser’s shop in her building and then to the dining room for lunch. She was kind and non-demanding of all the people we encountered and before I left, she realized the gift shop had closed before she could get a fellow resident a birthday gift. “Oh, I guess I’ll just walk over to (the market),” she said frowning at the rain.
Every day as I walk by Bobbie’s long-time residence I think of her – her wondrous hats, her smiles, her curiosity – and I wish I’d met her sooner.
by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
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
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.
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.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Black women find new opportunities to elevate work status on the World War II Home Front
The colorful portrait of a strong, confident and savvy black woman on an updated version of what has become known as the ubiquitous Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” poster packs a powerful message about African-American progress.
The actual image of “Rosie the Riveter” appeared on a Norman Rockwell cover of a 1943 Saturday Evening Post. This is more accurately the “We Can Do It!” image, which also featured a strong working woman, originally a poster by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse.
Like all American women who charged into munitions and war vehicle manufacturing, black women took advantage of the opportunity to improve their lot. Many left the cotton fields of the South and the domestic service of well-off white families everywhere to answer the call to staff the war industries.
They got jobs in every industry, every region, and at almost every level of expertise. Educated black women took part in technical aspects of building and repairing precision instruments and performed other skilled tasks.
Of the 1 million African-Americans who entered paid service for the first time during World War II, about 600,000 were women.
Gender barrier difficult to breach
It was tough for “the gentler sex” of all races to break through the gender barrier to perform heavy industrial jobs that were well paying, albeit temporary, during World War II. For black women, whose work status was even lower than most other women, racism made the row even rougher to hoe.
But in the end, they could proudly assert: “We did it!”
Kathryn Blood, a researcher for the Department of Labor, studied the contribution of black women to the war effort and issued her report in April of 1945.
“Working with men and women of every other national origin, the contribution [of black women] is one which this nation would be unwise to forget or evaluate falsely,” Blood wrote.
Black women excel in technical roles
Blood described the recruiting of black women in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942: “A [black] girl received a grade of 99, the highest rating of any of the 6,000 women who took the civil service examination for navy-yard jobs. She and another [black] girl who also showed special aptitude for work with precision instruments were assigned to the division where binoculars, telescopes and range finders are reconditioned.”
Blood called out the black women who were assigned to the technical laboratory jobs in the Army Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Md.: “The girls employed in the ballistics laboratory were college graduates, and all had a background of high mathematics. . . .The [black] girls in the Aberdeen laboratories ‘proved very satisfactory.’ ”
A foreman in an electrical-repair department of a large eastern airline field told Blood, “One of the best men in my shop” is a [black] girl.”
1942 Rosie poster gets a facelift
Updating of the Rosie the Riveter poster, originally designed by J. Howard Miller in 1942, is the work of Richard Black, artist for the Shotgun Players of Berkeley, Calif., who in 2009 presented a play about black women who worked in Henry J. Kaiser’s Richmond (California) shipyards during World War II.
Besides changing Rosie into an African-American, Black also gave her a welder’s shield over her bandanna, like those worn by many female workers at the Richmond shipyards.
Black revised the poster to use as promotion for the work titled “this world in a woman’s hands.” The play was written by Marcus Gardley, whose grandmother was a “Rosie” in Richmond.
Gardley, a native of Oakland, Calif., is a graduate of the Yale Drama School and has taught playwriting and African-American studies at Amherst University in Massachusetts. He is a visiting lecturer in playwriting at Brown University.
T-shirt honors black Rosies
In 2009, the Shotgun Players gave special performances at the Nevin Community Center in Richmond as a gift to the children of the Iron Triangle, a section designated by the city as “disadvantaged.” Many children of the Iron Triangle are descendants of the original black Rosies.
Recently, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park made the updated poster into a T-shirt that is sold in the park’s Visitor Education Center gift shop in Richmond. “They are just flying out the door,” says park ranger Betty Reid Soskin, who worked in a Jim Crow union office at the shipyards during the war and consulted with Gardley in his research for the play.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Fans and benefactors of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park gathered April 13 to get the latest on the park’s outreach programs and additions of artifacts and interpretive displays.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust, which helps support the park, sponsored “Rosies – Then & Now,” a fundraising event that drew about 200 revelers of all ages to the site of the former Kaiser Richmond Shipyards.
Some guests toured the 11-month-old National Park Service Visitor Education Center museum for the first time, and some took in the park’s “Home Front Heroes” film before dinner.
The tone was set early on with the energetic harmonies of the Honeybee Trio, three Vacaville (Calif.) high school girls who performed nostalgic songs from the era, many of those made famous by The Andrews Sisters.
The trio hit the right note with the audience: with five years’ experience on stage, their act is polished and could be mistaken for the original.
In one of their numbers, the Honeybees brought back the irreverent “Six Jerks in a Jeep,” calling on three Richmond girls from the audience to take a seat on stage in an imaginary jeep.
Young Rosies on stage
The selected guest performers are part of “Rosie’s Girls,” a six-week summer program supported by the trust. The program for girls from designated disadvantaged neighborhoods focuses on teaching the students traditionally male skills, such as carpentry, welding and fire fighting, and introduces them to positive female role models they call SHeroes (female heroes).
The girls, Hadassah Williams, 11, Ariel Norwood, 16, and Malaih Ware, 16, took center stage for the evening as modern-day “Rosies,” along with the wartime shipyard Rosies who were honored as well with special introductions.
Another honored guest was Morris Collen, MD, a Kaiser Permanente physician and researcher who started with the medical group in the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards in 1942. Dr. Collen, who spoke a few words at the podium, will celebrate his 100th birthday on Nov. 12.
Lucien Sonder, NPS community outreach specialist, presented a recap of the “Rosie’s Girls” 2012 summer camp; NPS Ranger Matt Holmes gave a report about “Hometown/Richmond,” a year-round park program that helps youth faced with environmental risk factors such as crime, violence and poverty.
Community support for event
The Rosie Trust got support to produce the event from many businesses and individuals in the community. Among the sponsors were: the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders and Blacksmiths, Forger and Helpers, AFL-CIO, and Local 549; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; Chevron; the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions; Northern California Carpenters Regional Council; The Permanente Federation; and PG&E.
Eddie Orton and the Orton Development company donated the use of the Craneway Conference Center for the evening’s event.