top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Where Were Rosie the Riveter's Children During Work Hours?

What Did Rosie the Riveter Do with Her Children While She Worked?

If you have young children now or if you have ever raised children, then you are well aware of the need to find quality day care. It isn't easy in the new millennium and it wasn't easy during World War II.

How Did Rosie Manage?

This is an important question because more than 33% of Rosies had children under the age of 14.

And in my spare time...

Here's the story of one such mother. Mrs. Mary Kolb worked at the Navy Yard as a sheet metal specialist. She needed the job in order to have enough money to support her family after her husband enlisted in the Army. To try to make this work for her three children, she signed up for the night shift when a neighbor said she'd keep an eye on her children. But the wear and tear on Mary soon became obvious. She said, "My, it will be a relief if I can get my kids in the nursery school."

Of course, many places had no organized childcare. However, those women who had access to a childcare facility said that it made a major different in their ability to stay focused on work.

Thank You Eleanor Roosevelt (Again)

Let’s thank Eleanor Roosevelt for much of the progress on the childcare front. In early 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt, always the spokesperson for women and for the poor, urged FDR to sign the first government-sponsored childcare center as part of the Community Facilities Act (CFA). The CFA also provided for educational and health care facilities. Soon there were a total of 7 centers that provided care for 105,000 children. But the estimated need was care for 2 million children.

Mrs. Mary Kolb, quoted above, was eager to get her children into the day care center that was across the street from the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. That facility allowed mothers like Kolb to work at the Armory. And it benefited women more widely as it allowed them to work in many Springfield factories.

Organized, Official Child Care Rather than Friendship Care

And while thanks are owed to the many grandmothers, neighbors, co-workers, and orphanage personnel (yes, some mothers had to place their children in orphanages in order to be able to work) who took care of children while their mothers worked, it is the Kaiser Company Shipyard child care facilities that showed what an excellent job could be done for children.

It's either that, or time off until a day nursery is organized.

This part of the story takes us back to Eleanor Roosevelt. Factory absenteeism had jumped by mid-1942. Probably many of the temporary childcare arrangements were beginning to fall apart -- a grandmother who needed to return to the farm -- the neighbor who decided to go to work herself -- friends on different shifts now had to work at the same time. There must have been hundreds of reasons, but they all hurt production.

Eleanor, Henry, and Edgar

Eleanor met with Henry Kaiser and his son Edgar in Portland, Oregon where women made up 60% of the workers. She made the case for childcare centers and Edgar took on the responsibility for designing, building, and opening the first center. He hired the best educational minds to develop the program, quality teachers to work with the children, doctors and nurses in the infirmary, nutritionists to staff the cafeteria, and quality play equipment for growing minds and bodies. These were 24-hour centers. The two opened by Kaiser in Portland served almost 4000 children. Building on the Portland success, Kaiser opened 14 centers in Richmond, California.

Was This Really Necessary?

Was this all fluff and just pampering the women? Data from the time showed that each center serving 40 mothers created 8000 productive hours of work per month. Vitally important.

How the Community Facilities Act (CFA) Worked

As we know, some factories established their own childcare centers — some even operating 24 hours a day. But often, the centers were organized by communities. In these instances, local organizations in the community applied for federal funding to establish day care / child care centers. It was local organizations rather than the government that determined the hours, the food, the educational opportunities. In other words, the services were based on the community’s needs.

Child Care Services

Some local centers were open from early in the morning until late at night. The hours were usually determined by shifts at local factories. It was typical that centers provided three meals each day for the children. And what will seem unusual today, some centers gave mothers prepared meals when they picked up their children. These women were tired and returning home to do all the housework, cooking, and laundry left them little time for adequate sleep.

Mother's paid $.50 per child per day (with inflation that is about $7.00 today).

By the end of the war, Rosies' Rosebuds and Rivets (as they were sometimes called) could be found in about 3100 federal and state funded centers, as well as those funded privately. Somewhere between 600,000 to 1.6 million children were taken care of in these childcare facilities while their mothers helped America win the war. After the war, all the publicly funded childcare centers closed -- with the exception of California.

But Not Today...

Today, the US is one of the few developed nations to not provide subsidized quality daycare. Due to the pandemic, millions of women quit the workforce. For many the reason was obvious. They could not continue in their jobs because they had to provide care for their children at home.



Makes a great Halloween costume for children. Also fun for dress-up or cosplay.

This 3-item set includes: Authentic re-creation of Rosie the Riveter’s iconic red and white polkadot bandana (22 inches -- just right for your Rosebud's smaller head), Rosie's employment collar button (1.25 inches), and a 3-inch Rosie name patch that brings to life the ROSIE LOOK with all the fun and none of the work.

HISTORICALLY ACCURATE: Rosie’s bandana was red with a random pattern of white polkadots. The official size was 27 inches and we offer that version in our RosieLegacyGear shop on Etsy. For our child's product, we made a special 22 inch version of the same bandana. Rosie's badge showed the employee’s image and unique number. We've included all the details of the original.

EMPOWERMENT MESSAGE: Rosie was the embodiment of strength, courage, and empowerment. Bandana logo echoes that: “WE CAN DO IT!…PASS IT ON!”

IDENTIFICATION PATCH: Rosie may not have worn a name patch, but it helps to identify your costume. Besides, it is fun to wear, especially since we have a unique design with polkadots woven into the name ROSIE.

100% QUALITY COTTON: The Rosie bandana is a soft cotton, dyed exclusively for us.

EMPLOYMENT BADGE ACTUAL SIZE: The Westinghouse Electric Service Employment Badges were 1.25 inches so that is the size we use.

(1) The 22 inch bandana is modeled on the one Rosie wore in the iconic World War II "We Can Do It!" poster. Rosie wore the bandana to keep her hair out of machinery. You can wear it just for fun or when you go on a hike or are having a bad hair day and way to hide your hair, or whenever and wherever you want to show your Can Do attitude.

(2) We went to the government archives to research Rosie’s employment badge. The result is our 1.25 inch collar button. This button is modeled on employment badges worn in the Westinghouse Electric Service company where the famous artist, J. Howard Miller worked and where he drew the Rosie poster. The employee’s photo was always in the center of the employment badge and so we took the image of Rosie from the poster, removed her lapel button (after all, she wouldn’t have had her badge on in the photo for her employment badge!), and put her image in the middle of our button. This is as close to the original as we could get.

(3) Rosie name patch is 3 inches by 1.5 inch -- a perfect size for ironing on a shirt. Instructions included.

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page