Stats on Women Working at Richmond Shipyards during WW2


1943:  41% of welders at the Richmond Yards were women.

2015:   2% of welders in the U.S. are women.

Note, “burners” cut metal (with a torch) rather than weld metal.

At peak production in 1943 there were 90,000 employees (24,500 women) and the average worker earned $61.00 per week.

From A Booklet of Illustrated Facts about the Shipyards at Richmond California, Second edition published by the Permanente Metals Corporation (Richmond, California: June 30, 1944)

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How Rosie Dressed for Success (and Safety)



I really wonder how many  women needed to be told not to wear high heels for work at the shipyard.

Many of the women who took on shipyard jobs came from the farmlands of  the Midwest, or from the Dust Bowl. They knew about hard work.  They would have known how to dress. At least the high heels part.

It’s also interesting to note that the “proper” way to dress is still pretty form-fitting to show off those womanly curves.

In reality, “You couldn’t tell one from the other unless you saw their welding outfit, or you had a torch,” said Rosa Duran, who worked in the Kaiser Shipyards from 1942 to 1945.**

Seriously, health and safety were big concerns. In the 1930s 37 per 100,000 manual labor workers died each year.  In addition to encouraging safety, Kaiser established  a health care program for the workers at the shipyards.  Though not completely altruistic–onsite clinics kept the workers healthy and working–this was an innovation in industry and would later become the Kaiser Permanente healthcare company.

Read more about the history of Kaiser on their website–>

** Excerpted from Rosie the Riveter World War II American Homefront Oral History Project: An Oral History with Evelyn Duran and Rosa Silvas conducted by DavidWashburn, 2002, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2007.
















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Today in Rosie the Riveter History: May 29

RosieTheRiveter-231x300The Saturday Evening Post published the cover featuring a female riveter in 1943.  The name on her lunchbox says “Rosie.”

From “Rosie the Riveter” by Marcy Kennedy Knight at  the Saturday Evening Post:

Mary was a 19-year-old phone operator in Arlington, Vermont, when Rockwell called and asked if she “wouldn’t mind posing for a painting.” She posed twice because the white blouse and shoes for the first sitting were not what he was looking for. Mary explains that yes, she did hold a ham sandwich while posing; she did have the white handkerchief that peeked from a pocket; she never saw Hitler’s book Mein Kampf; and the rivet gun was a lightweight fake. “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘How did you ever hold that rivet machine?’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘it wasn’t too bad.’” Rockwell had transformed the petite, 110-pound Mary into a brawny, muscular woman for the painting. She says, “He called me and apologized for making me so large.”  READ MORE AT THE SATURDAY EVENING POST WEBSITE–>

The original painting is now at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Mary Doyle Keefe passed away earlier this year at the age of 92.

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Rosie’s Enduring Legacy?

When you begin writing about something like Rosie the Riveter friends start sending you everything they find that has to do with Rosie….  Today’s link from a friend was from the Ford Motor Company–a paid slide show post on the New York Times (international) website.

Ford Motor Company branding campaign

Ford Motor Company branding campaign

Apparently Rosie is part of their branding campaign, you know, because of all those women working in Ford factories….. Actually, I have no idea how many women work in Ford factories today and in all fairness, it does make some sense–Ford Motor Company employed a lot of women in their factories during World War II.  But like everyone else, the company sent them back to work in their own homes after the troops came home.

After the war ended, factories returned to their automotive roots, but the imagery from the era remained a symbol of empowerment for female workers of all industries. In the 1980s, Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster was rediscovered and re-appropriated as a feminist symbol. Today, its imagery still graces everything from dorm room walls to celebrity Instagram accounts. Though women have yet to reach workplace equality, the original Rosies remain a rallying point for a movement whose momentum hasn’t abated.

And of course the irony here is that the “symbol of empowerment for female workers” really wasn’t “for all workers” as this particular slide maintains. Let’s remember, that while 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics reports cite women welders at about 6% , current numbers have gone down–perhaps due to the recession–and now only 2% of welders are women.

But even 6% is nothing to write home about.

So really, it’s all symbol and little substance…..

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Researching Rosies: You Never Know What You’ll Find

I’ve begun to research Rosies, starting with the original Rosie the Riveters to have an  understanding of the history from which our “New Rosies” come.

2179234054_50d6c354b7_mI’ve accessed the Oral Histories of many Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front Oral History Project at UC Berkeley.

Many of the stories they have gathered revolve around the Richmond Shipyards…. I am fascinated by how the foundations of many important social and political movements intersect at the factory where Rosie worked.

During the Depression tens of thousands escaped the Dust Bowl in search of jobs and headed west to work in the fields.  Then, during World War II manufacturing ramped up to build ships and vehicles and airplanes for the War Effort.

Dustbowl Farm photo by Dorothea Lange

Scenes from the Dustbowl: A Dustbowl farm. Coldwater District, north of Dalhart, Texas. This house is occupied; most of the houses in this district have been abandoned. Photo by Dorothea Lange

Oakland became home to many war related industries:  Kaiser Shipyards, Moore Dry Dock Company, and the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, to name a few.  Richmond also supported a large canning industry, and of course there was the Rail Road.

As I listened to these oral herstories and read the transcripts I became aware of all the changes that were happening at that time and all the important issues that I can look at through the lens of these Rosies–perhaps that is part of the reason why the image of and the idea of Rosie has endured.

Some of the Rosie the Riveters tell stories about coming from farms to the city, meeting and working with people from all over the country and from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.  There were even workers that came from Mexico as part of the Bracero program.  Rosies’ stories are not just the stories of changing gender roles, they are the stories of immigrants, of war, of Japanese internment, of racial inequality, of corporate responsibility, of gentrification, desegregation, and of changing industries. Stories we are still grappling with today.

Check out the collection of oral histories from folks living and working on the home front during World War II. The project is a collaboration between the City of Richmond and the National Park Service interviewing residents of the Bay Area about their wartime experiences.


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Her Grandmother was a Rosie the Riveter!

One of the most amazing things about writing for the CarmenElectrode blog is writing profiles of some amazing women, and getting some great stories. I love the idea of the torch being passed from Grandmother to Granddaughter!

Grandmother’s Stories Inspired This New Rosie

Miranda: Woman TIG WeldingMiranda Duckworth grew up hearing stories of her great grandmother Winnie Mae Long, an original Rosie working as a boilermaker at the Tampa Shipyard during World War II.

After the war her great grandmother welded side-by-side with her husband in their own welding shop.

“Her stories inspired me to follow in her footsteps,” Miranda says.


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Rosie inspired gift idea

It’s been a while since I posted here. I’ve been busy working on the blog again.  Ran across THIS fantastic calendar of Rosies:



Great gift idea for Rosie afficionados– plus the money raised supports the wonderful programs offered by the Washington Women in the Trades, while preserving some living history and honoring the amazing women who went to work for the War effort.

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A Wendy the Welder in Newport, AK

I found this article at the Newport Independent about Ruth White of Newport, AK who worked as a welder, not a riveter:

‘Ruthie the Welder’ does her part

With the arrival of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Armed Forces Day and Independence each year, thoughts turn to those men and women who served in the armed forces during those times.
However, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor some 70 years ago, one local woman performed her wartime duties as her husband prepared to ship overseas.

During 1942-43, Ruth White worked in the Kaiser Liberty Shipyards in Richmond, Calif. as a part of the “Rosie the Riveter” crews in the United States.

The crews were made up mostly of housewives whose husbands had shipped overseas as part of the war effort during World War II and they began to take jobs in factories, often building ships and planes for the government.

Those crews spawned a “Wendy the Welder” offshoot group based on Janet Doyle, a welder at the same shipyard as White.

“I started as a tacker and finished as a general welder and welded the seams of the ships,” White recounted recently as she discussed her contribution.

Read the rest of the article onlne–>

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West Virginia Rosie the Riveter Park

West Virginia is honoring Rosies at a new  Rosie the Riveter Park:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — They built fleets of Avengers and Marauders, aircraft that Americans flew into battle during World War II. They carefully assembled countless explosive fuses and separated the chemicals for making TNT. Unknowingly at the time, some even crafted parts for the atomic bombs that helped end the war.

They are West Virginians who served on the home front, among the millions of women who worked at defense plants to supply the war effort. They are the real lives behind the cultural icon known as Rosie the Riveter, and they’ve begun telling their stories while they still can.


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Women’s Stories Come to Life at NYU

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