Rosie the Riveter and WWII Home Front Posters
October 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
On our most recent Vintage European Posters field trip, we paid a visit to the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Museum in Richmond, just 10 minutes up the coast from our Berkeley Offices . The museum is a National Historical Park, part of the National Park Service, and admission is free! Our visit was a rich opportunity to learn about local history and find out more about the stories behind our own WWII posters, many of which feature “Rosies.”
The US officially entered the war after the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, although we had been providing the Allies with ammunition for several years already. The demand for warships skyrocketed, and Richmond’s coastal access to the deep water of the San Francisco Bay made it the perfect location for what would become the “largest and most productive shipyards in the entire world.”* Overnight Richmond went from a small town of 20,000 to a bustling hub of industry with a population of over 100,000, making the Bay Area was an essential hub in the home front effort during World War II. One visit to the Rosie The Riveter Home Front Museum reminds us how much history is truly right in our backyard.
The labor demands of munitions factories changed the gender and racial make up of our region. Many young white men enlisted in the army, and there were far more jobs than could be filled by those who stayed home. This workforce demand meant a massive influx of women and African Americans, eager to find work and contribute to the war effort.
An essential part of the home front effort was the use of posters to encourage young individuals – mostly women – to join the war effort. Daycare programs and America’s first every HMO healthcare Kaiser Permanente were established so that women could devote the majority of their time to production.
While women were encouraged by their government to join the workforce, they did face a certain amount of discrimination in the shipyards. Posters often played a large role in reassuring the male workers that women could work just as hard and be just as skilled as men. In fact, there were some things that women did better! One woman, who was a welder during the war, compared welding to needlepoint, and claimed that one could always tell whether a man or women had done the welding by how neat it was.** Posters like the one below depicted men and women working side by side, having set aside any prejudices in order to work for a common cause.
There were also racial tensions in the workplace, and while we see more posters advertising cooperation between genders, there were a handful of posters with the slogan “United We Win,” such as the one below.
The war came to an end in 1945, and the shipyards were shut down. Thousands of people were forced out of work and expected to make room for the soldiers coming back from overseas. Many women returned home to care for their families, but some continued with industrial work, enjoying their newfound independence. All in all the Richmond shipyards produced seven hundred and forty seven warships during WWII, all thanks to the men and women who worked for their country on the home front.
The Rosie the Riveter and WWII Home Front Museum is a wonderful place to experience our local history and learn about the women who joined the effort to fight for the home front cause. Be sure to check out their website to plan your visit to this remarkable FREE museum!
This post was written by Emily Jackson, UC Berkeley Art History Student and Gallery Assistant, and edited by Elizabeth Norris, Owner Vintage European Posters www.vepca.com
Vintage European Posters was established in 1997.
We are the West Coast’s Largest Dealer in Original Vintage Posters from France and the United States.
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This fall we will exhibit at the Pasadena Heritage’s Craftsman Weekend October 20-21
The Fall Hillsborough Antiques Show November 2-4