The Town that Sparked Change The Story of The Ladies and Minorities Behind WWII

The view of San Francisco Bay from the Rosie the Riveter museum parking lot.

History of Richmond

Before the war had started; the semi-rural town of Richmond, California was home to only 23,000 people. As the men went off to war there were a few groups of people left on the home front to work: those too old to fight, those who are too young to be drafted, African-Americans, Latinx, Asian-Americans and women. And majority of them came to Richmond to work; exploding the population to a staggering population of 150,000.

Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Park

Map of all Museums in the Rosie the Riveter National Park

The Visitor's Center

The entrance to the Visitor's Center

The visitor's center gives people the introduction to the ladies and gentlemen behind the upkeep of Army and Navy equipment and munitions. It starts with orientation videos that are introduced by some of the park rangers. Visitors can also try their hands at welding and riveting. They can take their picture with a Rosie on her lunch break or take a walk on a street full of children and workers. Visitors also get the history behind the man who owned the company. There they can talk to the volunteers and park rangers; some of whom actually worked at the shipyard.

1. The Rosie the Riveter Memorial

The Rosie the Riveter Memorial at Sunrise

Starting as a public art project in the 90's, the City of Richmond invited the National Park Service to participate in the development of the memorial. The participation led to the creation of National Park in Richmond. It commemorates the women and minorities that worked through gender and racial divides for the good of the country and the good for the war effort.

2. Ford Assembly Plant

Ladies riveting away

The Ford Assembly Plant was were the Ford model T was partially produced before the start of the war. But when President Roosevelt declared an temporary end to the production of civilian automobiles, the Ford model T ceased being produced for the remainder of the war. After the war had started the Ford company started making Jeeps and other munitions for the war effort. Women and men worked side by side when working in the assembly plant.

3. The Kaiser Shipyard

A welder explaining to two female personnel

One of the 4 shipyards in Richmond owned by Kaiser that operated in Richmond, CA. Of the 9 companies that had contracts and shipyards on the West Coast, Kaiser outproduced them by having 747 ships set sail during the course of the war, many of them Liberty class or Victory class cargo ships. The most famous one being the SS Red Oak Victory that is currently docked in Richmond's Inner Harbor.

The women always say that you can tell a woman's weld from a man's weld. They say welding is like embroidery and the women's seams were even and flawless while the men's were rough and uneven.

4. The SS Red Oak Victory

SS Red Oak Victory docked in Richmond's Inner Harbor

The SS Red Oak Victory was the last Victory class ship to set sail from Kaiser shipyards and return to the shipyards. It is also the fastest built ship in history. It took one of the shortest time to finish construction of the ship. Only to be beat by the SS Robert E Peary. The women working on the ship did majority of the welding and fabrication jobs of the SS Red Oak.

5. The Maritime Child Development Center

The Newly Renovated Child Center

The Maritime Centers were commissioned by the U.S. Maritime Commission in response to the women of Richmond going to work in the local factories and shipyards nearby. The centers were 35 nursery units that were spread throughout the city of Richmond. The centers were only available white women while African-American women asked extended family to watch over their children.

The main Maritime Center was renovated and is now part of the Richmond School District where it continues to serve the future generations of Richmond.

The Boilermaker Union logo

The Boilermaker Union is one of the oldest Unions in America. It was founded in 1880 in response to the Industrial Revolution. If a man wanted to work in shipbuilding, construction, welding, or blacksmith he had to be a part of the Boilermaker Union.

That was the problem that many workers who were not white men faced during the war. The Union did not hire women or people of color. But the Union realized that if the Allies were to win the war they needed people to build ships, construct buildings; and those people needed to be apart of the Union to have those jobs. So they were admitted, but with a strict admission hierarchy. First whites; men then women; then those of color; men then women.

Men and women of color were often in either the auxiliary or clerical jobs. But it was a step up from their original prospects.

The Double V Campaign

The Double V campaign poster

Women, African-Americans, Latinx, and Asian-Americans were considered minorities in the 1940's. They did not share in the same rights as white men.

Women were not hired for skilled labor jobs until the draft began. Even then they were hired after men who were either too old to fight or too young to be drafted. Plus they could only work in the shipyard and factories if they joined the Boilermaker Union which was very reluctant of letting women join.

The take away is that women filled a man's job. While African-Americans weren't working as bellhops or house-ladies for rich white families. Everyone who worked in the Boilermaker Union was paid the same wage. And after the war, no one was satisfied to go back how things were before the war. They had tasted what the white men had and they wanted to keep it. They would fight all through the 50's and 60's with the Civil Rights Movement to keep what they believed were equal rights.

By: Catherine Pugliaresi

Bibliography: The Rosie the Riveter National Urban Park


Created with images by DonkeyHotey - "We Can Do It!"

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