“All the day long, whether rain or shine,
She's a part of the assembly line.
She's making history,
Working for victory,
Rosie (Brrr)* the Riveter.”
So go the lyrics to the famous song "Rosie the Riveter," a tribute to the spirit of the women who were instrumental to the US victory of World War II. Dubbed “The Rosies,” they were recruited to work the home front as men were drafted into the military to fight the war abroad. It’s reported that more than 19 million women joined the workforce to support assembly lines and produce military supplies.
During pre-pandemic times each fall, students in Tara Theobald-Anderson’s Gender Studies class visit the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Museum, located on the edge of Richmond Marina Bay. This fall, visiting the museum took on a new sense of urgency; one of the few remaining Rosies died over the summer at the age of 98. When the museum opened up to visitors and restarted its Rosie sessions, Tara worked quickly to see if students would be permitted to take a field trip given COVID-19 restrictions. After Mid-Pen’s COVID-19 Task Force reviewed the museum’s safety protocols, the trip was scheduled.
On Friday, November 12, Tara’s Gender Studies students went on the school’s first field trip since January 2020, just a few months before the pandemic began. Leading up to the field trip, the class finished discussions about the first wave of feminism. “We talk about what happens afterward,” said Tara. “I frame this as rising feminism that happens during this time, but it doesn’t really get counted in the waves. We talk about women in the war effort, propaganda to get women involved, and the ramifications after the war."
A highlight of the field trip is hearing the stories of Rosie the Riveters in person, followed by a question and answer session. In the museum’s small auditorium, the Rosies—Marian McKey Sousa and Marian Wynn, both 95, gently removed their masks before standing in front of a podium to share what led them to Richmond to support the war effort. Mid-Pen students, wearing masks, were seated safely away and listened intently while sitting in a small auditorium.
The two Marians worked at Shipyard #3, Marian McKey Sousa as a draftsman and Marian Wynn, a pipe welder. Both loved their jobs and continued working after the war ended. Rosie the Riveters were key contributors in the construction and completion of nearly 750 vessels for WWII. Perhaps most surprising of all—especially to Bay Area natives—is that the ships were built in Richmond.
“The background knowledge that Tara taught us in class brought into my perspective how women contributed to the war effort,” said A., a Mid-Pen 11th grader. He noted that he’d often seen the famous Rosie the Riveter poster but never knew what it represented. “I found it inspiring how they were able to quickly adapt to going from high school to work as riveters. They could produce as much and do as well, if not better, than men could do.”
K, a senior Dragon, agreed. “I’ve never met World War II veterans. Hearing the Rosies—with that much history—was so inspiring. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as without taking the Gender Studies class.”