Monday, October 8, 2018

ROSIE THE RIVETER/ WWII HOME FRONT Park and Visitor Center, Richmond, CA

During World War II, shipyards, factories, military bases, and businesses of all kinds around San Francisco Bay hummed with activity. At the Rosie the Riveter/WW II Home Front National Historical Park in San Francisco’s East Bay one can explore how American civilians, especially women, lived, worked and contributed to the war effort at home.
When our family was visiting us in Oakland, we decided to make the park a destination one afternoon. We had passed the sign for the turnoff to the park many times as we sped on the 580 Freeway from Oakland to the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge on our way to Marin County. This time we took the exit. The park is at the edge of the Bay, looking onto a distant view of Angel Island and the city of San Francisco.
The Visitor Center is in the restored Ford Building, which was an assembly plant for jeeps and other military vehicles during the war. It was the largest assembly plant on the West Coast. Now, as a museum, it has a number of permanent and temporary exhibits about the history of Richmond's wartime industries and workers.
As we walked through the Visitor Center and looked at the exhibits, it felt like a trip back in time. Life-size dioramas dramatize daily life for the thousands of workers who worked at the various wartime industries, many living in crowded rooms due to the housing shortage.
Many workers were women, who took over jobs previously done by men. These were the “Rosie the Riveters.”

Who Was Rosie?
Even during World War II, the term “Rosie the Riveter” served as shorthand for the women workers flooding the industrial workplace. The first Rosie popped up in a popular tune released in early 1943. As the song put it, “She’s a part of the assembly line. / she’s making history, ‘ Working for victory, / Rosie the Riveter.”
Artist Norman Rockwell was undoubtedly aware of the song when he painted the May 29, 1943, cover of the Saturday Evening Post. His subject is a young riveter on break, with her lunchbox clearly marked “Rosie.” The one-two punch of the song and magazine cover made Rosie a lasting icon.


Child day care centers, funded by the government, solved the problem of the “eight-hour orphans”-- the children of working mothers. At home, people were encouraged to plant “Victory Gardens” as a way of contributing to the war effort by growing their own food.
Displays also told the darker stories of Japanese families forced to leave their homes to go to internment camps.
We watched a short film and also went to a talk by a very knowledgeable docent. We didn’t have time to fully appreciate all of the exhibits. We'll have to go back. As we returned to our car in the parking lot we saw the monument to Rosie the Riveter, which stands in the center of the large park. The park is a popular spot for bikers and walkers. Next time we visit, we’ll allow more time to enjoy the fresh air and spectacular view across the bay.

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