THE COLOR OF ROSIE
Rosie the Riveter's were important during WW2. We have the iconic posters by J. Howard Miller and Norman Rockwell to keep a visual in our minds. But we need to remember that the war brought many women into the home front -- not just riveters and welders. Fortunately, the war not only helped to break down gender barriers, it also provided opportunities for minority workers.
From the year 2022, it's hard to look back and remember that during WWII America was segregated. Very segregated. The home front was segregated. The military was segregated. It's true that Black Americans served in the military during the war, but in separate units. For example, you've probably have heard of the famous Tuskegee Airmen (If you are interested in their history and Eleanor Roosevelt's historic flight with them, click here). It was not until 1948 that President Truman ordered integration in the armed forces. This was an important step in the advancement of civil rights.
Black Women Entered Wartime Employment
When America entered the war, Black women wanted to do their part. Many already worked, but only low paying jobs had been open to them. Most were domestic servants or laundresses or waitresses. As women began to be hired in factories, Black women quit their previous jobs and applied for the better paying factory jobs.
During the war, the percentage of Black women as domestic workers went from 72% to 40%.
The percentage of Black women as factory workers grew from 7.25% to 18.6%.
An estimated 600,000 Black women left the often oppressive and demeaning jobs as domestics and sharecroppers to participate in the work force on the Home Front.
Better paying jobs mattered. They always have and they always will.
But the change was much more than working in a home or in a factory. Many Black women left the south and moved to the factory jobs in the industrial northeast. This took many to Ohio and Michigan and Illinois and all the way to California and Oregon. They found work in cities -- away from the rural areas where they lived before. They faced housing segregation and prejudice at work. But as the war continued, as the labor pool had fewer and fewer white males to be hired, all women were welcomed, independent of their race.
Why Did This Matter?
Many scholars suggest that Black women working in factories during WWII helped lay the groundwork for what later became the civil rights revolution. These Black women worked side by side with white women. They worked as equals sharing the triumphs and the tragedies.
We're Not Naive...
It would be naive to suggest that all went well or that there were equal opportunities. For example, often Black women were given the night shifts letting white women have the easier day shifts. I've read that some of the work performed at night was more strenuous.
But we can appreciate how Rosie helped open the doors for Black women as well as white women.
Military Service, As Well
How did women get into the military service? Even before Pearl Harbor, with the war on the horizon, a group of women began discussions with Eleanor Roosevelt that eventually led to the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC and later renamed WAC). Once Congress passed the resolution -- with support of George Marshall, General of the Army -- the War Department followed Army policy and admitted Black women as well as white women. Of course, there was a restriction. Black women faced a 10% quota.
We're not surprised that Black women faced discrimination even in the military. They were required to be in separate companies, separate lodgings, separate dining tables, and separate recreation areas. So much of this reminds us of the Jim Crow laws in the south.
Before recruitment and training even began, African American women faced the hurdle of discrimination. Applications for the first contingent of officer candidates were available at the United States Post Office, and many African American women that wanted to apply were turned away on the spot, simply because of their race. There is no telling how many women this discouraged, as discrimination became a recurring problem for WAC recruitment.
To Honor All Those Women Who Worked During WW2 in Factories
Check out our Wendy the Welder costume accessory kit. We've put together a unique and historically accurate set of items that are great for Halloween costumes, re-enactment events, educational units, etc.
The Wendy the Welder kit includes:
Blue Paisley Bandana worn under the goggles
Red welding goggles
"Wendy" embroidered name patch that can be ironed or sewn on. Instructions included
Two Employment badges -- each shows an actual WW2 Wendy -- one for a Black woman and one for a white woman. Both are included.
Or Perhaps You Might Be Interested in Our Original Wendy the Welder Acrylic Figure with Inspirational Message -- Seize Your Opportunities
Amazing WENDY THE WELDER Standing Acrylic Figure
WW2 Working Woman Figure
--Amazing Women Series
• Original drawing of Wendy the Welder is rendered as standing acrylic figure.
• Based on historical photographs of African American WW2 war workers
• Includes inspirational message on the base,
• Inspirational Message: SEIZE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES
• Part of our Amazing Women collection and makes a lovely gift for use on a desk, bookshelf, display area, even cake topper.
[WW2 ACRYLIC FIGURE - Wendy the Welder] Our unique drawing is based on WW2 historical photos showing African American welders at work.
[ACRYLIC MATERIAL] Made of acrylic material with high light transmittance that makes Wendy vivid. The cut edge is smooth.
[PROTECTIVE FILM] Protective surface film on each side of figure and base to ensure Wendy arrives in good condition. Please remove the surface protection before use.
[FIGURE SIZE] Wendy the Welder acrylic figure is approximately 6 inches tall.
[2-SIDED] Front side is our drawing of Wendy; back side includes name, dates, and brief descriptive text.
[INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE and INFORMATION BROCHURE] Base shows the inspirational message: SEIZE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES. Wendy is packaged with an information brochure that provides history and historical context.