Celebrating Rosie the Riveter in California

During World War II millions of American women entered the workforce to replace those who serving overseas. Many of these women worked in the defense industry manufacturing munitions and war supplies. In California two cities. Richmond and Long Beach, housed numerous shipyards and plants and employed many “Rosie the Riveters.” Though the war is long over both cities house tributes to those important women of history and I recently visited both.

The city of Richmond, located on the San Francisco Bay, played a significant role in World War II. Not only did the shipyard produce the most sea vessels in the country (747!) but it also housed over 56 different industries related to the war. In fact, in three years the population quadrupled thanks to influx of workers.

Because of Richmond’s significant contribution to the war effort and the abundance of surviving era sites it’s now home to the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.

The park encompasses a large portion of the Richmond waterfront and contains numerous historic sites to visit. On my visit, I had limited time so my only stop was the Visitor Education Center located adjacent to the historic Ford Assembly Plant.

You would not believe how massive this plant is. It’s humongous, especially when you park at the wrong end and have to walk the entire length to get to the visitor’s center. Oy!

As you may have already guessed it was originally used to manufacture Fords. During the war the plant was converted to defense and manufactured combat vehicles. After the war it reverted back to Ford but was eventually closed. It then sat vacant for decades and was slated for demolition. Thankfully, preservationists intervened and it’s now beautifully restored and headquarters to numerous companies.

Housed in an adjacent annex, the Visitor’s Center is home to a museum dedicated to the history of the war effort and particularly Richmond’s involvement. Through numerous interactive displays I learned the story of Rosie the Riveter and the millions of women she represented.

Returning home to Southern California I was happy to learn of our very own tribute to Rosie in Long Beach.

Like Richmond, Long Beach is also a coastal city and home to naval shipyards during the war. In addition numerous aviation plants such as Boeing and Douglas Aircraft were based there. Like their compatriots to the north the women of Long Beach and the surrounding areas made a significant contribution to the war effort.

The Rosie the Riveter Park is located at the corner of Conant & Clark in east Long Beach next to the site of the former Douglas Aircraft plant. Though small in size the park packs a lot of information into its design and I spent a lovely evening walking around learning of this important part of history.

There are several signs throughout offering stories of the Long Beach war effort and they can be used as a companion to an available audio tour. Once again, I had limited time, so I skipped the tour and instead walked a path that featured a timeline of the war years.

Soon, I hope to return to the park to take the audio tour and fully immerse myself in the area’s  World War II history. In the meantime, I’m so happy to have visited both locations dedicated to the millions of women who helped win the war. I’m so proud of California’s contribution to the war effort and am glad those responsible won’t be forgotten.

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