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Tuesday, March 21, 2023



World War II Home Front Shipbuilders


 On the morning of December 7, 1941, military forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Naval Fleet and ground bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On December 8, 1941, one day after the "Day of Infamy," the United States declared war against the Empire of Japan and on December 11, 1941, Japan's ally, Germany, declared war on the United States. 

 Ten million Americans, mostly young working age men, would serve in the military during WWII, out of an overall United States population of 113 million. While an unprecedented number of young men would serve in World War II, the country would drastically increase its war production on the Home Front, serving not only the needs of the armed forces of the United States but her allies as well - what President Franklin Roosevelt called "The Arsenal of Democracy." The combination of so many serving in the military, during a period of necessary and drastic increases in production, led to unprecedented social changes on the American Home Front. 

Modern day visitor
During World War II six million women entered the workforce. "Rosie the Riveter" and her "We Can Do It" motto came to symbolize all women Home Front workers. A shortage of white male workers led to active recruitment, by the United States Government, to war industry jobs. Initially white middle class women were recruited, followed by minority men, and finally minority women. Integration of women and minorities into the workforce was initially met with resistance, however, the new opportunities for women and minorities "cracked open" the door to equal rights and would have profound impacts on the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Movement during the following decades. 

 The World War II period resulted in the largest number of people migrating within the United States, in the history of the country. Individuals and families relocated to industrial centers for good paying war jobs, and out of a sense of patriotic duty. Many industrial centers became "boom towns," growing at phenomenal rates. 

 One example, the City of Richmond, California (northeast across the Bay from San Francisco), grew from a population of under 24,000 to more than 100,000 during the war. Workers from around the nation had to intermingle with each other, overcome differences, and form a cohesive identity in order to meet war demands. Following World War II, many migrants decided to stay in their new homes, forever changing the cultural landscape of the United States. 

 Home Front workers faced many challenges and many of which would lead to change. Working conditions on the Home Front were difficult and dangerous. Between the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and the D-Day Invasion of Europe in June of 1944, there were more Home Front industrial casualties than military casualties. This high number of industrial casualties would lead to improved workplace safety and regulations, as well as better access to affordable health care. Another challenge faced by working women on the Home Front was childcare, as mothers comprised a significant portion of the work force. This led to the establishment of child development centers and the professional field of early childhood development. 

 In addition to Home Front workers, everyone was expected to be an active participant in the war effort. Rationing was a way of life as twenty commodities were rationed and people were asked to, "Use it up –Wear it out –Make it do –or Do without." Materials vital to the war effort were collected, often by youth groups, and recycled. Many Americans supported the war effort by purchasing war bonds. Women replaced men in sports leagues, orchestras, and community institutions. Americans grew 60% of the produce they consumed in "Victory Gardens". The war effort on the United States Home Front was a total effort. 

 Front of visitor center. Brick building with entrance door and park sign. NPS Photo/Luther Bailey 

 Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park was established in Richmond, California in the year 2000, to tell this national story. The Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond produced 747 ships during World War II, the most productive shipyards in history. 

 In addition, Richmond had a total of 55 war industries. Richmond also has a large number of intact historical building from the period and the Richmond Museum Association, one of the parks cooperative partners, operates the SS Red Oak Victory, the last remaining Victory Ship built in the Richmond Shipyards. 

 The Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Education Center provides educational and interactive exhibits. People of all ages can learn about this important time and place in history and how it impacted our daily lives. This relatively new National Park was established in 2000. 

 The park staff is currently working with the City of Richmond, Contra Costa County and other park partners to preserve the historic World War II resources in Richmond. Some historic sites are open to the public, while others are only viewable from the outside. Please be sure stop by the Visitor Education Center, first, in order to watch our films, learn about local history and pick up a map that will provide guidance to park sites throughout the city of Richmond, California. 

Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, suite 3000 in Richmond, CA. The center provides interactive and educational exhibits as well as a variety of park films, which show in our theater on a regular schedule. Entry to the visitor center and the viewing the films are free. 


Rosie the Riveter Memorial 

The Rosie the Riveter Memorial (above) began as a public art project for the City of Richmond in the 1990's. During the creation of the memorial, the National Park Service was invited to participate, and this partnership led to the founding of the National Park in Richmond.

Designed by visual artist Susan Schwartzenberg and landscape architect/environmental sculptor Cheryl Barton, the Rosie the Riveter Memorial: Honoring American Women's Labor During WWII is the first in the nation to honor and describe this important chapter of American history. Chairwoman Donna Powers led the campaign to establish the Memorial and the sculpture was commissioned by the City of Richmond and the Richmond Redevelopment Agency. 

 The principal component is a walkway, the length of a ship's keel, which slopes toward the San Francisco Bay and aligns with the Golden Gate Bridge. The path is inscribed with a timeline about the home front and quotes from women workers sandblasted into white granite. Sculptural elements of stainless steel encountered on the walkway are drawn from ship's blueprints and suggest the unfinished forms of hull, stack and stern under construction. Two gardens - one of rockrose and one of dune grass - occupy the location of the ship's fore and aft hatches. Porcelain enamel panels on the hull and stack reproduce memorabilia and letters gathered from former shipyard workers during the course of the Memorial project, along with photographs of women at work in jobs across the nation. 

 The panels, quotes and timeline illustrate the complex opportunities, challenges and hardships faced by women during the war years, including gender discrimination, hazardous working conditions, food rationing, and shortages of housing and childcare. 

 Donna Powers was inspired to create the Memorial by two women in her family. Her mother-in-law Ruth Powers was a teacher at the Richmond shipyards daycare centers and her great aunt Clarissa Hicks was a riveter at Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their wonderful stories led her to ask other women around Richmond what their jobs and lives were like during WWII, and the project grew under the leadership of historian and cultural planner Donna Graves. 

Memorial Address: Marina Park - Regatta Blvd., Richmond, CA 

 Driving Directions: I-580 Marina Bay Parkway exit south to right on Regatta Blvd., Marina Park is on left. 

Walking Directions: The memorial can be reached from the park's visitor center by walking along the Bay Trail. It is about a 1.05-mile distance along a scenic walk. 


SS Red Oak Victory Ship

The SS Red Oak Victory Ship is the last surviving ship built in the Kaiser Shipyards, and is owned by the non-profit Richmond Museum Association is located west of the visitor center. Today, the Red Oak Victory remains a monument to the men and women who worked in war related industries as part of the World War II Home Front. 

In 1998, the ship was saved from the Naval Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay by a courageous group of men and women and has been under restoration since that time. 

When visiting, take the time to talk to the volunteers on boards the ship. If you are lucky enough to find one who actually served on Merchant Marine vessels during the war, find out what that life was like - ask them how they felt to be on board ships built by women. 

 The SS Red Oak Victory is open to the public on Sundays, 10am- 4pm. (Access to the ship requires negotiating a gangway (stairs), and going up or down other stairs once on board. The ship is not ADA accessible.) 

For directions, admission fees, special events, and additional information visit For questions, contact the ship at: 

Downtown Richmond, CA 1940s style mural inside the Visitor Center

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