Posts Tagged ‘University of California’

Japanese-American Doctors Overcame Internment Setbacks

posted on January 27, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Poster announcing Executive Order 9066 - 1942

Poster announcing implementation of Executive Order 9066 (detail), May 15, 1942

Ten weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This law, enacted February 19, 1942, authorized the incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent and resident aliens from Japan. This measure only affected the American West; the U.S. military was given broad powers to ban any citizen from a fifty- to sixty-mile-wide coastal area stretching from Washington state to California and extending inland into southern Arizona. The order also authorized transporting identified citizens to military-run “internment” camps in California, Arizona, Washington state, and Oregon.

This controversial action was undertaken in the name of national security and affected almost 120,000 men, women, and children. The Order was suspended at the end of 1944 and internees were released, but many had lost their homes, savings, and businesses. Subsequent efforts by community and legal groups in the 1970s resulted in rescinding the Order and offering compensation to those affected, and legislation was passed to try to ensure that such a broad disruption of civil liberties would not happen again.

The impact of the war, and of the suspension of basic human rights, personally affected two of Kaiser Permanente’s first Japanese American physicians. Once hired, they remained here their entire professional careers.


Dr. Isamu "Sam" Nieda

Dr. Isamu Nieda, circa 1955

Isamu Nieda, MD (1918-1999)
Hired as a radiologist at Kaiser Permanente in 1954, retired 1987

Isamu “Sam” Nieda was born in Ashland, Calif. (a small community in the central East Bay of San Francisco) in 1918 to Japanese-born parents. He was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and then went to medical school at U.C. San Francisco. Partway through his studies he heard the news of Executive Order 9066.

According to Dr. Nieda’s late sister, the family held a meeting with Sam and determined together that he would leave the evacuation area to continue his studies. Family lore stated that he had to sell his microscope to pay for the journey, and that the rest of his family chipped in as well. He then departed for Salt Lake City, where he worked briefly as an orderly, before continuing to Temple University in Philadelphia. The American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) helped Sam through the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council. This program worked with colleges and universities in the Midwest and Eastern States to admit qualified students from the camps, and placed four thousand students before war’s end.

Dr. Isamu "Sam" Nieda

Dr. Isamu Nieda, circa 1975

Dr. Nieda completed medical school in 1944 at Temple University, and after World War II he served as a Venereal Disease Control Officer in Japan, working for the Public Health and Welfare department of the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the American occupation (1945–1952).

Dr. Nieda returned to the U.S. and worked as a radiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center for 33 years.

Dr. Nieda always identified as a U.C. student, so it was meaningful to the family when in 2009 UCSF granted honorary degrees to all Japanese American students from the Medical, Dental, and Pharmacological schools who had to stop their studies due to internment. (Sam had passed away ten years prior.)


Planning for Health newsletter 1962-Fall

Dr. Ikuya Kurita, Planning for Health, 1962

Ikuya T. Kurita, MD (1922-2005)
Hired in respiratory medicine at Kaiser Permanente in 1957, retired in 1999.

Ikuya “Eek” Kurita, MD, was born in San Francisco in 1922 to Japanese-born parents. He attended U.C. Berkeley for two years until 1942, when he and his parents were relocated to an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Internees could leave Topaz if they had a job or were admitted to school, so Kurita was able to complete his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah. He then served in the army from 1944 to 1947 and returned to the University of Utah where he graduated from medical school in 1950.

Dr. Kurita worked at Kaiser Permanente hospitals for 42 years, first in Oakland where he began as Chief of Emergency from 1957.

KP Reporter, 1975-06-13

Dr. Ikuya Kurita, KP Reporter, 1975

He was appointed chief of the Department of Emergency Services at the Oakland hospital in 1965, and in 1975 ran the new rehabilitation and educational clinic for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). An article in the KP Reporter described that program:

According to lkuya Kurita. MD., Emergency Department Chief at Oakland, and physician consultant for the Respiratory Care Clinic, the purpose of the program is to bridge the gap between acute hospital care and home management, with primary emphasis on reaching and helping patients before their condition erodes to the point of warranting hospital admission. “The clinic helps to fill the gap between acute care and what is often fragmented care,” says Dr. Kurita, who is a specialist in pulmonary diseases.

Dr. Kurita began working at the Martinez Medical Center in 1977 and retired from there in 1999.


Special thanks to the family of Isamu Nieda, retired Permanente physician Michael Gothelf, Dr. Ken Berniker of the TPMG Retired Physicians’ Association, scholar Elaine Elinson, and video producer Robert M. Horsting for their help with this article.

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Jack Slater – early diversity in Kaiser Permanente communications

posted on February 25, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Reporter 1968-11

Jack Slater, KP Reporter, November, 1968

Last year Kaiser Permanente celebrated the 70th anniversary of opening our health plan to the public. And Ebony, the influential pictorial news magazine celebrating African-American life and culture, also turned 70 years old last year. This Black History month we celebrate one of Ebony’s writers (later an associate editor), a talented young man who got his professional start as editor of two Kaiser Permanente publications.

The November, 1968, issue of the KP Reporter carried this announcement:

Jack Slater has joined the Northern California Region’s Public Relations department in Oakland where, in addition to other duties, he will edit the publications Planning for Health and the K-P Reporter.

Mr. Slater was formerly associated with Addison-Wesley Publishing Company as a copy editor of textbooks. Prior that affiliation, he served on the staff of the Philadelphia Board of Education as a curriculum editor.

A 1958 graduate in journalism, Mr. Slater received his degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Mr. Slater was only at Kaiser Permanente a year before moving on to a newly created position in the Chancellor’s office at the University of California at Berkeley. By 1971 he was an editor of the Journal of Educational Change at UC Berkeley.

Slater cancer- det

Jack Slater article in Ebony, November, 1979

Within a couple of years Mr. Slater was writing for the influential African-American magazines Ebony and Jet. Some of his first Ebony articles were subjects close to home. “The Guard Changes in Berkeley” covered the radical electoral victories where two African Americans were elected to the city council on the April Coalition slate. Another, “Putting Soul into Science: Black nuclear chemist searches for elusive superheavy elements,” profiled UC Berkeley Lawrence Livermore scientist James A. Harris.

Mr. Slater’s Ebony articles also covered important health issues affecting the African-American community, including “Hypertension: Biggest Killer of Blacks” (June, 1973) and “The Terrible Rise of Cancer among Blacks” (November, 1979).

During the 1980s and 1990s Mr. Slater also wrote for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, California, Essence, Emmy, and Rolling Stone. In 1993 he wrote a book on Malcolm X for the Cornerstones of Freedom young adult book series.

Nothing is known of Mr. Slater after the 1990s, but we are proud that such a gifted and passionate writer was part of the Kaiser Permanente communications family.


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Liberty and Victory ships named for African Americans

posted on April 15, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer



(Center) Mr. Walter Gordon, daughter Betty Gordon, Elizabeth Gordon at launching of the SS John Hope.

One of our patriotic messages during World War II was that our society was better than that promoted by the Axis forces. And part of that messaging was about how we were more tolerant and inclusive than Hitler’s “master Aryan race.”

To Americans of color, all of them keenly aware of our segregated military, the internment camps for Japanese Americans, or the whites-only Boilermakers union in the shipyards, this was a challenging sell. But winning the war demanded huge changes in attitude from everyone. One high profile commitment to honoring diversity was the naming of cargo ships, a task which fell under the direction of the Maritime Commission’s Ship Naming Committee.

Before the war ended, 18 Liberty ships built for the Maritime Commission were named for outstanding African Americans. Towards the end of the war four of them honored black Merchant Mariners who perished under fire. In addition, four of the subsequent Victory-class ships were named for historically black colleges. Six of these 22 vessels were built in Kaiser shipyards; some – most notably the SS George Washington Carver – were predominately built by African American men and women. Ships thus named were a tremendous source of recognition and pride in the black community. Historian Shirley Ann Moore described the impact of one launching in her seminal work about the Richmond (Calif.) African American community To Place Our Deeds:

“Thousands of black people, far more than could be ‘simply be accounted for by black shipyard workers and their families,’ crowded into the yard. As the ship ‘shivered and slid into the water,’ a black woman ‘threw up her arms and raised her voice above the crowd. ‘Freedom’ she cried.’ “

The SS John Hope [#272] was launched January 30, 1944. It was Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2’s 272nd Liberty ship and the 8th ship named after an outstanding African American. Hope, born in Atlanta, was an African-American educator and political activist, the first African-descended president of both Morehouse College in 1906 and of Atlanta University in 1929, where he worked to develop graduate programs. Both were historically black colleges.


Mr. Thomas Pruitt, “baritone and burner.”

Presiding at the launch were Walter Gordon, Elizabeth Gordon, and their daughter Betty Gordon. Also present were Mrs. Harry Kingman, Matron of Honor (whose husband was the chairman of the President’s Fair Practices Employment Committee), Miss Florence Gee (daughter of a shipyard worker), and Rev. Roy Nichols (Associate Minister of the newly formed South Berkeley Community Church).

Walter Arthur Gordon (1894-1976) was the first African American to receive a doctorate of law from U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school. He had an extremely long and varied career where he served as a police officer, lawyer, assistant football coach, member of the California Adult Authority, governor of the United States Virgin Islands, and a federal district judge.

The launch proceedings were published in the May 1944 issue of The Sphinx magazine, the second-oldest continuously published African American journal in the United States. The article stated:

Mr. Thomas Pruitt, a baritone and burner on graveyard shift at the Richmond yards, sang two songs: “Water Boy” and “Without a song.”

Mrs. Hope was unable to attend, but sent a message that was read aloud:

“You can imagine how happy it would make me to see that great ship slide down the ways. We hope that it will help hasten the day when liberty, justice, and peace will reign over the entire world. I know that this would be John Hope’s wish. He was a member of nature’s nobility. This ship would not be worthy of his name, if it were not willing to give its all for humanity.”

These pictures of that launching, never previously published, are from the extensive and remarkable collection taken by African American photographer Emmanuel Francis Joseph.


Liberty ships

1. SS Booker T. Washington, educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute (#648, September 29, 1942, California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
[It was aboard this ship that West Indies-born Captain Hugh Mulzac became the first African American merchant marine naval officer to command an integrated crew during World War II]

2. SS George Washington Carver, scientist (#542, May 7, 1943; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #1)

3. SS Frederick Douglass, abolitionist leader and editor (#988, May 22, 1943; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore,)

4. SS John Merrick, insurance executive (#1990, July 11, 1943; North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, NC)

5. SS Robert L. Vann, founder and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier (#2189, October 10, 1943; South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine)

6. SS Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet (#1897, October 19, 1943; California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)

7. SS James Weldon Johnson, poet, author and diplomat (#2546, December 12, 1943; California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)

8. SS John Hope, educator (#2742, January 30, 1944; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)

9. SS John H. Murphy, founder and publisher of The Afro-American (#2614, March 29, 1944; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)

10. SS Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haitian independence leader (#2780, April 4, 1944; Kaiser Richmond Shipyard #2)

11. SS Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender (#2785, April 13, 1944; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)

12. SS Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad (#3032, June 3, 1944; South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine)

13. SS Bert Williams, comedian and vaudeville performer (#3079, June 4, 1944; Todd New England Shipbuilding Corp., South Portland, Maine)

14. SS Edward A. Savoy, confidential messenger for 22 secretaries of State (#2660, July 19, 1944; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)

15. SS James Kyron Walker, Second Cook, lost on the Gulfamerica, torpedoed and sunk (#2982, December 15, 1944; Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, TX)

16. SS Robert J. Banks, Second Cook, lost on the Gulfamerica, torpedoed and sunk (#2392, December 20, 1944; J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, Georgia)

17. SS William Cox, Fireman, died when the David Atwater was sunk by enemy fire (#2394, December 30, 1944; J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, Georgia)

18. SS George A. Lawson, Messman aboard the tug Menominee, torpedoed and sunk (#3097, February 1, 1945; New England Shipbuilding Co., Bath, Maine)


Victory ships

19. SS Fisk Victory, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee (#749, May 14, 1945; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)

20. SS Howard Victory, Howard University, Washington. D. C. (#822, May 19, 1945; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)

21. SS Tuskegee Victory, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama (#682, June 5, 1945, Kaiser Oregon Shipbuilding Corp.; Portland, OR)
[Renamed USNS Dutton, T-AGS-22, an oceanographic survey ship, November 1, 1958]

22. SS Lane Victory, Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee (#794, June 27, 1945, California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
The Lane Victory is now a museum ship in San Pedro, Calif., and has appeared in various commercials, movies and television programs.


Photographs courtesy Careth Reid / E.F. Joseph Collection. All rights reserved.

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Henry J. Kaiser sticks up for union labor at Brewster Aeronautical

posted on May 13, 2014

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer 

On Jan. 29, 1954, Henry J. Kaiser delivered the keynote address at the Seminar on Human Relations in San Bernardino, Calif.

This conference, sponsored by the University of California and the United Steelworkers of America, brought together labor leaders, anthropologists, educators, and other intellectuals to explore productive and creative ways to work.

Kaiser’s speech was titled “Human Relations: The Key to Abundant Happiness,” and one of the lessons he drew upon was his wartime management of Brewster Aeronautical Corporation, which had plants in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.


Brewster F3A-1 Corsair landing on a WWII aircraft carrier.

Brewster was manufacturing F3A-1 Corsair fighters but had been ineptly managed and inefficiently run.  In 1943, as a favor to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Kaiser agreed to try and turn the company around.

Kaiser displayed a remarkable sensitivity to the role of organized labor and to the practical mechanisms of management’s role:

“The blame for the atrocious situation was heaped by the government and the press upon the union leader, Tom DeLorenzo, who was called a liar, a criminal, and worse.

“I shall never forget my first meeting with De Lorenzo, the accused troublemaker. His attitude was that all managements were dishonest, unreliable and untruthful, and only outright battle would handle management.

“I said to De Lorenzo, ‘Can’t you and I work on the basis of being truthful with each other?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘it won’t work. I’ve tried it too many times and always get double-crossed.’

“Quietly I said, ‘Well, Tom, do you think this would work? Suppose when you come in to see me from day to day and you are going to lie, you say, ‘I’m going to lie to you today.’ But on the other hand, when you are telling me the truth you say, ‘Now I’m telling you the truth today.’

“Much to my surprise, he said, ‘That might work. I’m willing to try it.’ Many times when he came in amid the nightmare of problems, he would say, ‘I’m going to lie like hell to you today! But this is my position!’

“As time went on, more often he’d come into conferences and say, ‘I’m going to tell you the truth today.’ Tom DeLorenzo had left in him some of the spark of decency that is in every human being and when appealed to, is released.

“The thrilling sequel is that Tom DeLorenzo pitched in shoulder to shoulder with management to do the patriotic job of cleaning up the Brewster mess. Man-hours per plane were slashed to one-third; the padded work force was cut in half; yet the production of planes was multiplied nearly 30 times.”


HJK speaking at Fontana, Calif., blast furnace dedication, 1942

Despite Kaiser’s success, this productive relationship was ridiculed by anti-labor forces in the U.S. Government. House Resolution 30, “Authorizing and Directing and Investigation of the Progress of the War Effort,” had begun in 1941 and resulted in a series of hearings.

Congressman Melvin J. Maas (Minnesota) was the principal interrogator during a heated hearing Nov. 30, 1943. Maas was a tough Marine, a veteran of both WWI and WWII, and had little tolerance for anything that smacked of war profiteering. He lit into Kaiser, but Kaiser gave as well as he got[i]:

Mr. Maas: “Mr. Kaiser, [you wrote that] ‘the responsible union leaders at the Brewster plant assure management of their desire that we should continue, and give assurance that we will receive the support and cooperation of labor in order to achieve an increase in plane production for the maintenance of the war effort.’

“They have opposed every other manager, but they do endorse your management. Why? What makes you think that they endorse your management while they opposed every other management at Brewster?”

Mr. Kaiser: “I guess I have confidence and faith and trust.”

Mr. Maas: “Of course, if you give (him) all the candy he wants, he’s (on your side), isn’t he?

Mr. Kaiser: “That isn’t what I said. You are making a statement that I am giving them the candy; I am not . . .  I told [DeLorenzo], if you are [interested in the well-being of your union members], it is necessary to make them so efficient that . . . when we are going into the postwar era, they can exist and live, produce and create in a competitive market and make a living for themselves and their families. Tom, the sooner you start moving in that direction the greater will be your service to your members.’ ”

Truly, Henry J. Kaiser believed in his motto, “Together we build.”

Short link to this story:

[i] Henry J. Kaiser – Western Colossus,  Heiner, 1991, pp162-164

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Henry J. Kaiser and more on the building of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

posted on September 6, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Part 2 of 2: NEW! silent film of bridge construction

As described in our previous blog, Henry J. Kaiser and his construction companies participated in several significant aspects of building the original San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge: helping secure funding for the project and handling the piers on the East Bay side. Perhaps less glamorous but certainly no less important were two additional projects – providing concrete for the other bridge components beyond the East Bay piers and painting the bridge. In addition to the role of Bridge Builders, Inc. (the consortium assembled with Henry Kaiser and partners in 1931-1932 to bid on work on the Golden Gate Bridge) several other Kaiser-related entities were part of the Bay Bridge.


Field and Office Organization of Bridge Builders, Inc
Field and Office Organization of Bridge Builders, Inc: (Front Row, Left to Right) Charles Cameron, Carpenter Foreman, Sec. 4; M. L. Wagner, Superintendent, Sec. 4; C. B. Jansen, General Superintendent; J. Thompson, Superintendent, Sec. 4A; Ray LeWan, Carpenter Foreman, Sec. 4A; Orval Auhl, Assistant to General Superintendent; Frank Harrison, Engineer of Design; William Nosman, Office Manager; AI Holmes, Chief Timekeeper; Russell Quick, Cost Engineer; Hugh Pendleton, Field Engineer. (Back Row, Left to Right) Assistant Superintendents H. Brandt and A. Windom, Sec. 4; B. Durfee, Sec. 4A; J. Kuhn, Sec. 4; B. Begg and J. O’Leary, Sec. 4A; Frank Connor, Fleet Boss; Harry Lutz, Master Mechanic. Charles Nourse, Master Electrician; Jack White, Concrete Expediter; Fred Ramsey, Auditor; Joe Deveney, Material Clerk. Photo from Western Construction News, July, 1934,

Providing concrete for the bridge in addition to East Bay footings

Subcontracts were awarded to Kaiser Construction (AKA Henry J. Kaiser Company) for barge rentals and mixing concrete for pouring – a significant “subcontract” involving some 1,250,000 barrels of Portland cement  and a substantially larger amount of aggregate. This was accomplished through a complex web of interlocking companies.

  • Henry J. Kaiser Company — formed June 22, 1933, to subcontract for work on the Bay Bridge. HJK Co. was never directly a contractor on this project, but they did build a “central batching plant” on Yerba Buena Island that distributed concrete needed throughout the project.  It was a success – a summary report by Eugene Trefethen to the Director of Highways, Southern Pacific Mole Bay Bridge Unit, boasted:[i]

“The best evidence of the soundness of their decision is to be found in the unprecedented speed with which the Substructure has been completed, low cost…and the unparalleled results obtained by the State of California in the strength and consistency of all concrete batched and mixed by the method finally adopted by the Henry J. Kaiser Company.”

  • Trans-Bay Construction Company – Contract #2, West Bay substructureTrans-Bay was a consortium composed of General Construction Company, Seattle; Morrison-Knudsen Company, Boise; McDonald and Kahn, San Francisco; Pacific Bridge Company, Portland; and J. F. Shea Company, Portland. In addition to these contractors, an undated contract between TBCC and HJK Co. outlines the details of their relationship regarding the provision of mixed concrete for the bridge.

  • Concrete Products Sales Company; formed in Oakland May 22, 1930. Documents between CPSC and Henry J. Kaiser Company affirmed that HJK Co. had been carrying on Bay Bridge concrete operations in its own name but was actually as agent for CPSC. CPSC employed HJK Co. to continue as its agent,[ii] and on November 22, 1933, a formal agreement was signed between CPSC and HJK Co. Henry J. Kaiser himself would be listed as president of CPSC and A.B. Ordway his second in command. After the bridge was finished, CPSC sold its business to W.A. Bechtel Co., Henry J. Kaiser Co., and the Southern California Roads Company.

  • Clinton Construction Company– Contract #5, Yerba Buena Island tunnel and anchorage; Contract #8, Oakland approaches. Clinton Construction was founded around 1916, and among their many regional projects were California Memorial Stadium at U.C. Berkeley (opened 1923) and the Richmond Civic Auditorium and Arts Center (Richmond Memorial Convention Center) in 1949. CCC subcontracted much of the work on these two large bridge contracts, far more than was the case with the major contractors. On November 30, 1933, a contract was signed between CPSC and CCC detailing the sale of mixed concrete between the two companies. Some of the provisions of that contract included:[iii]

Article 7. Transbay to pay $4.59 per cubic yard for all concrete of normal cement content of 1.5 bbls. per cubic yard of concrete. Variation of 1% either way is permitted.

Article 12. Transbay to use every effort to unload concrete promptly as soon as Kaiser’s barges are tied to anchorages to prevent delay to Kaiser’s barges.

  • Davis Brothers and Sheik; an agreement dated November 20, 1933, between CPSC and DB&S outlined subcontracting details of the barges, towing arrangements, and mixing plant.


Painting the bridge

Bridge Builders, Inc. also won “Painting contract #9” for part of priming the fresh metal of the bridge. This used 143,000 tons of paint; the last two coats on the West Bay Towers and “cable pasting” plus 4 coats on cables and accessories. This was completed January 11, 1934.

Advertisement for sale of surplus Bay Bridge construction equipment, Western Construction News, July 1934.

By July 1934 Kaiser’s role was done and they were selling off equipment. The Bay Bridge opened to the public on November 12, 1936, and Henry J. Kaiser would continue to make history in the Bay Area and beyond.

Short link to this article:

[i] Documents about the Henry J. Kaiser Company and the Oakland Bay Bridge, 2/17/1935; BANC83-42c-4-9-2.pdf

[ii] “Essential dates involved in Bender v. Clinton Construction Company, et. al,” circa 1933. BANC83-42c-3-13.pdf

[iii] “Agreement between Transbay Construction Co. and Henry J. Kaiser Co. regarding Bay Bridge construction,” circa 1933. BANC83-42c-3-13.pdf

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Wartime shipyard child care centers set standards for future

posted on September 29, 2010

Naptime for Kaiser kids

By Ginny McPartland
Child care at the workplace was a brand new phenomenon in World War II. The government-subsidized Kaiser West Coast Shipyards nursery schools, which enrolled more than 7,000 offspring of women war workers, offered the perfect opportunity to test theories of the then-fledgling field of child development.

In 1943, Henry J. Kaiser invited key figures in child development studies to his shipyards to set up ideal facilities and programs so workers could build ships without worrying about the safety and health of their children. These model child care centers at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, and Portland, Oregon, yielded valuable research results that helped fuel the study of early childhood education for decades after the war.

Catherine Landreth, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley, set up the Richmond schools program. Lois Meek Stolz, PhD, a child development researcher and author from Columbia University and UC Berkeley, set up the Portland centers. James L. Hymes, Jr., a student of Stolz at Columbia, served as manager of the Portland centers.

Stolz and Landreth continued to exert influence on the child development world until the end of their lives. But it was Hymes, just 30 at war’s end, who would become a prodigious contributor to the child development literature for the next five decades. His work is often quoted today. One such quote reflects lessons from the home front: “Every day-care center, whether it knows it or not, is a school. The choice is never between custodial care and education. The choice is between unplanned and planned education, between conscious and unconscious education, between bad education and good education.”

Early Hymes work discovered this summer

Recently, my colleagues and I unearthed the final report of the two Portland Kaiser wartime child development centers, along with a series of seven pamphlets written for postwar child care providers. We found these documents, mainly written by Hymes, in the Institute of Governmental Studies Library in the basement of UCB’s Moses Hall. They were originally filed in 1946 in the Library for Economic Research at Berkeley.

The series of pamphlets includes: 1) A Social Philosophy from Nursery School Teaching; 2) Must Nursery Teachers Plan? 3) Who Will Need a Post-War Nursery School? 4) Meeting Needs: The War Nursery Approach; 5) The Role of the Nutritionist; 6) Large Groups in Nursery School; 7) Should Children Under Two Be in the Nursery School? Two unnumbered pamphlets titled “Toys to Make” and “Recipes for Foods for Children” were also mentioned in the report but copies are not available in the library. Teachers bought a total of 2,582 pamphlets at 15 cents each, according to the report dated December 1945.

Pamphlets offer nuggets

The pamphlet titled “Should Children Under Two Be in Nursery School?” addressed an issue the child care centers were forced to face head-on during the war. Generally, nursery schools did not take children under 2 because experiments had shown the younger children did not thrive in group settings. But the demand for care for infants was too high in the shipyards to ignore. They agreed to accept children as young as 18 months, and in Oregon alone the centers enrolled 904 children 18 to 24 months of age.

“We therefore set out to plan a program which would include among other things: Provision for close and continuous relation of each child with one adult who would be responsible for him especially during eating, toileting and sleeping and during any time of emotional stress when he needed ‘mothering,’ ” wrote Stolz and Hymes.

Good food for good health

Another key wartime lesson: “Food influences behavior. Small children…have pounded into us in unforgettable ways that hungry people are irritable; that they fight more; that they cry easily; that they become destructive…Some children we have seen, hungrier still, have told us that hunger can make people placid, inactive, lethargic,” Hymes wrote. In pamphlet 5, Miriam Lowenberg, chief nutritionist, discussed the crucial link between food and good health: “The (nursery school) nutritionist (helps) teachers … bring the child who needs medical care to the attention of a visiting nurse or doctor.”

The final report discussed other crucial issues such as: the need for child care services after the war for low-income women, costs of the child care operation including nourishing meals, methods of recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, nurses and counselors, providing weekly onsite professional development, and offering opportunities for staff to participate in policy decisions. Attempts to maintain a 10:1 child-to-teacher ratio for the children over 2 and a 5:1 ratio for the infants 18 to 24 months were mostly successful, the authors reported.

Kaiser experts shine on after war

After the war ended, Hymes gained national recognition as an author. Among his earliest best-selling booklets was “A Pound of Prevention” in 1947, which advised first-grade teachers on how to handle difficult “war babies.” He wrote that the “crybabies, whiners and bullies” were still suffering from the disruption of war. Hymes also wrote “How to Tell Your Child About Sex” (1949), “Behavior and Misbehavior: A Teacher’s Guide to Discipline” (1957), “Teaching the Child Under Six” (1968), and “Twenty Years in Review: A Look at Early Childhood Education 1971-1990.”

Hymes served in the Lyndon Johnson administration on the National Planning Committee for Head Start. He and Catherine Landreth both were instrumental in the development of the educational program for low-income children. Landreth was also known for her groundbreaking research in social perception. One of her studies found that children learn racial prejudice from their parents as early as three years old. She wrote three books that were influential in shaping early childhood education: “Education of the Young Child” (with Katherine H. Read), 1942; “The Psychology of Early Childhood,” 1958; and “Preschool Learning and Teaching,” 1972.

After the war, Stolz published “Father Relations of War-Born Children,” a study of how father-child relationships were affected by a father’s absence for war duty (1954); “Our changing understanding of young children’s fears, 1920-1960” (1964), among other related works.

To learn more about the legacy of child care in the World War II Kaiser Shipyards, visit the Home Front festival Saturday, Oct.2, at the Craneway Pavilion on the Richmond waterfront. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources is collaborating with Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park to tell the story of the wartime child care centers.

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