What Grandma Did In The War
May 14, 2012 7:28 AM   Subscribe

During WWII, nearly 6 million women joined the workforce. Metafilter's talked about "Rosie the Riveters" previously, but we've never heard from these women in their own words.
posted by ChuraChura (9 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
During WWII, of Boeing's 50,000 workers in Seattle, 50% were women & 10% of those were African-American women. Here's what one "Rosie" had to say: "I started in the Boeing toolroom. The head superintendent said that he’d never heard of such a thing as putting women in factories, and it was certainly not going to work. He said, 'The happiest day of my life will be when Boeing decides that can’t use these women, and I can be there personally to kick them out the door.' That was the way we started out." —Inez Sauer
posted by treasure at 7:52 AM on May 14, 2012

The Library of Congress' Veterans History Project does something similar. They not only preserve records and interviews of actual veterans/soldiers, but also of civilians like "Rosie" and others. This link shows 129 results for female civilians active during WWII that now have a digitized archive for public consumption.
posted by aheckler at 7:56 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

My maternal grandmother was one. Apparently, one advantage compared to schoolteaching at the time was that she no longer had to hide her marital status, and California was closer to my Grandfather's initial deployment in Alaska. We have telegraphs of them planning to meet up in Seattle to make the most of precious leave.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:07 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tried to watch one of the videos. Took too long to load.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:12 AM on May 14, 2012

I watched a few videos and they loaded right away (although that's a really long title card shot).
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:59 AM on May 14, 2012

There's a burger place near my home that's in the old Ford plant near the Richmond, California Shipyards that was converted during WWII to the war effort. Some of the tables have industry papers from WWII that have advice columns telling supervisors how best to manage women in their factories, and the pluses and minuses of how women work. Very upfront in a way you don't see these days, now that we're disinclined to make such gross generalizations.

I just Googled to find any references to those columns, and found insteadthis YouTube video, which I can't listen to right now but looks like more of the same.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:27 AM on May 14, 2012

(All you Bay Areans: Rosie the Riveter dance coming up at the Richmond Shipyards/Craneway Pavilion this Memorial Day weekend.)

The park next to my place is the Rosie the Riveter park, and they often have posters up describing what it was like for the women and the infrastructure. One interesting part was the no nonsense education women received about birth control and other health things.

Also, the women in charge of the female workers' health, Hannah Peters, who deserves a front page post of her own, kept a lot of notes. One of the things she noticed was that women were just out of shape, so she made up a bunch of calisthenics that involved things like climbing up and down the ladders up the sides of the ships that women had to be okay at before they were put to work.

It was interesting to me because I'd always heard that everyone back then was in better shape than now, but it sounds like that isn't necessarily true.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:44 AM on May 14, 2012

I read oral histories of women workers from WWII as an undergrad in 1989. Sherna Berger Gluck's Rosie the Riveter, Revisited covers this same territory.

I don't see any references to Gluck's work on the site, but I think it could be very interesting to compare them. Gluck's work had a feminist perspective and the Real Rosie the Riveter Project seems (if "Related Resources" are indicative) to be more closely tied to socialist/leftist work.
posted by Mad_Carew at 1:35 PM on May 14, 2012

We have telegraphs of them planning to meet up in Seattle to make the most of precious leave.

CBrachyrhynchos, I now have a happy mental image of a 90yo woman who spent A LOT of time in Seattle during her early married years, and couldn't describe a single location in it outside of the hotel near the bus station.

Sorry for that image. But your family's existence depended up on it!
posted by IAmBroom at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2012

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