Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front
National Historical Park is located in Richmond, California, near
San Francisco. The park encompasses an array of historic properties
in the city which were constructed during the 1940s to support
America's entry into World War II.
The park is a "partnership park",
meaning that no land or buildings are actually owned by the National
Park Service, which only administers the park. This relatively new
National Park was established in 2000 and is still under
development. Bus tours of the park began in 2007 and were run by the
city as the park has formed a unique partnership and is jointly
administered by the National Parks Service and the city government.
During this initial developmental phase, the
park has limited visitor services. A self guided auto tour with
optional walking tour is available for downloading. In the summer of
2007 preliminary bus tours were begun with a new guideless model,
which instead filled half of the bus with residents who spoke of
their experiences from the time to put what are otherwise everyday
streets for residents into a greater historical perspective.
The Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay
Park is open year round, dawn to dusk, as are the other Richmond
city parks within the National Park's boundaries.
The park has a small, un-staffed visitor
center at Richmond's City Hall (1401 Marina Way South in Richmond,
The park's creation was spurred by the
construction of a Rosie the Riveter memorial in a city shoreline
park (three years prior to the creation of the National Park), to
honor the "Rosies", women who made up much of the
workforce at the shipyards. The four Richmond shipyards with their
combined 27 shipways, produced 747 ships, more than any other
shipyard complex in the country. Richmond was home to 56 different
war industries, more than any other city of its size in the United
States. The city grew nearly overnight from 24,000 people to 100,000
people, overwhelming the available housing stock, roads, schools,
businesses and community services.
The effort behind the memorial was initiated
by then-Councilwoman Donna Powers. It grew under Project Director
Donna Graves to become the first national tribute to home front
The memorial is located at Marina Bay Park,
the site of former Kaiser Richmond Shipyard #2. It is the length of
a Liberty ship with a form of the ship being built. The simple metal
pier represents the stern at the water's edge, a simple cylinder
frame is the smoke stack, and the bow is made of prefabricated parts
similar to those assembled by the shipyard workers. A timeline of
World War II is placed along the walkway running the length of the
memorial. Interpretive panels within the structures present
information on women's history, labor history, and the Home Front.
Ford Richmond Plant
The Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant was the
largest assembly plant to be built on the West Coast. One of only
three tank depots in the entire country, approximately 49,000 jeeps
were assembled and 91,000 other military vehicles were processed
here. Ford employed thousands of workers at the site during World
War II, many of them women who were entering the work force for the
first time. "Rosie the Riveter" was a period song
representing these women.
In mobilizing the wartime production effort to
its full potential, Federal military authorities and private
industry began to work closely together on a scale never seen before
in American history. This laid the groundwork for what became known
as the "military-industrial complex" during the Cold War
Noted architect Albert Kahn is credited with
the design of the Ford plant in Richmond. After World War II, Ford
moved its Northern California factory to Milpitas, where it became
known as the San Jose Assembly Plant.
The four Richmond Shipyards were part of the
Kaiser Shipyards. The construction of 747 ships during the war here
is a feat not equaled anywhere else in the world, before or
since. The park's Rosie memorial is located on the former grounds
of Shipyard #2. Shipyard #3 is listed on the National Register of
Both Liberty and Victory ships were
constructed here. These ships were completed in two-thirds the
amount of time and at a quarter of the cost of the average of all
other shipyards. The SS Robert E. Peary was assembled in less
than five days as a part of a special competition among shipyards;
but by 1944 it was only taking the astonishingly brief time of a
little over two weeks to assemble a Liberty ship by standard
SS Red Oak
The SS Red Oak Victory is a Victory
ship preserved as a museum ship. It was one of 414 Victories built
during World War II (constructed at the Richmond Shipyards), but one
of only a few of these ships to be transferred from the Merchant
Marine to the U.S. Navy. The vessel issued cargo and munitions to
various ships in the fleet throughout 1945. During a hazardous tour
of duty in the Pacific, SS Red Oak Victory handled many tons
of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty.
Atchison Village Housing Project
The huge explosion of workers coming to live
in cities like Richmond, caused intense strain on city
infrastructure. One of these strains was the severe lack of housing.
Workers arriving in these rapidly expanding urban centers were
forced to find what they could. They slept in all night movie
houses, shared "hot beds" (where three people used one
bed, each getting an 8 hour stretch), or just camped out.
Atchison Village Housing Project is an example
of the local-Federal collaboration that provided much needed housing
and domestic support for defense workers and their families. The
modest, wood-frame buildings clearly reflect the constraints (time,
money and materials) placed on publicly-funded housing construction
during the period. Just prior to and during the war, the Lanham Act
of 1940 provided $150 million to the Federal Works Administration,
which built approximately 625,000 units of housing in conjunction
with local authorities nationwide. These were highly sought after
and company managers were the most likely to be able to procure
housing in Atchison Village.
Due to racial discrimination, minorities fared
very poorly in gaining housing. They often lived in shacks, in the
crates that brought the raw materials to the city, in trailers, or
in automobiles. They and other lower income earning workers were
lucky when they were able to move to barrack-like dormitories
constructed for the mass of WWII workers.
The Richmond Housing Authority was selected to
be the first authority in the country to manage a defense project.
Atchison Village represents one of 20 public housing projects built
in Richmond before and during World War II. Constructed in 1941 as
Richmond's first public defense housing project, it is the only
project funded by the Lanham Act that still exists in Richmond, and
one of the few in the nation not destroyed after the war.
Today, Atchison Village is a collection of
privately owned houses managed by a cooperative of the homeowners.
While most of the dormitories and other low income housing of WWII
are gone, Atchison Village, built as permanent housing, remains.
Kaiser Richmond Field Hospital
More American workers died in Home Front
accidents then US soldiers killed on WWII battlefields. This was
true up to the Battle of Normandy in June 1944. Henry J. Kaiser,
owner of the Richmond Shipyards, realized that only a healthy work
force could meet the deadlines and construction needs of wartime
America. He institutionalized a revolutionary idea, pre-paid medical
care for workers, which soon expanded beyond workers. For many
workers, this was the first time they had seen a doctor.
The Kaiser Richmond Field Hospital for the
Richmond Shipyards was financed by the U.S. Maritime Commission, and
opened on August 10, 1942.
By August 1944, 92.2 percent of all Richmond
shipyard employees had joined the plan, the first voluntary group
plan in the country to feature group medical practice, prepayment
and substantial medical facilities on such a large scale.By 1990,
Kaiser Permanente was still the country's largest nonprofit HMO.
In part due to wartime materials rationing,
the Field Hospital is a single-story wood frame structure designed
in a simple modernist mode. The Field Hospital operated as a Kaiser
Permanente hospital until closing in 1995.
Maritime and Ruth Powers Child Development
The Maritime and Ruth Powers Child Development
Centers were two of approximately 35 nursery school units of varying
sizes established in the Richmond area during World War II in order
to provide child care for women working in the Kaiser shipyards. The
Maritime center was funded and constructed by the Maritime
Commission as part of a larger development that also included
housing, an elementary school and a fire station. The temporary
housing was demolished after the war but a larger permanent housing
complex remains as do the other buildings.
The Maritime Child Development Center, a wood
frame, modernist style building operated by the Richmond School
District, incorporated progressive educational programming, and was
staffed with nutritionists, psychiatrists and certified teachers. It
had a capacity of 180 children per day. At its peak, with 24,500
women on the Kaiser payroll, Richmond's citywide child care program
maintained a total daily attendance of 1,400 children. Unlike the
Federally-funded WPA day care facilities implemented during the New
Deal, the World War II centers were not intended for use by the
destitute, but for working mothers.
The Kaiser-sponsored Child Care Centers,
particularly those at Kaiser's industrial sites in Vanport, Oregon,
and Vancouver, Washington, gained a reputation for innovative and
high quality child care. The center is still in operation today.
Lucretia Edwards Shoreline Park
Lucretia Edwards Shoreline Park, named in
honor of local community activist Lucretia W. Edwards, honors the
wartime contributions made by the Bay Area Shipyards during World
In addition to the local Richmond Shipyards,
shipworker's bootprints with plaques set in the sidewalks and long
low seating walls point visitors to the other Bay Area shipyards.
The following inscriptions are engraved into
the concrete walls: