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11.7.5 Two Rosies

Two African American women steelworkers at work. One woman with a bandana in her hair holds a blowtorch to a sheet of metal held by the other woman.
Joseph, E. F. (Emmanuel Francis), 1900 or 1901-1979
circa 1940s
Photographic Print

Joseph, E.F., Two Rosies. Photograph. Circa 1940s. Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University.

This photograph illustrates two important ways that World War II served to advance movements for equality at home. First, women served as welders in heavy industry as a result of the Rosie the Riveter campaign, which was a government-run effort to encourage women to join the workforce. Second, the two women in this picture appear to be African American. African American workers, especially female workers, were hired as a result of the temporary breaking down of racial and gender barriers in the workplace, which led to a ratcheting up of the wage labor system. Also, the fact that this image was taken in California illustrates how the Second Great Migration, the movement of hundreds of thousands of African Americans who left the South and came to cities in the North and West, created a much larger population of African Americans in California during the war. How do you think the wartime experiences of workers like this sharpened expectations and ideals of what racial and gender equality could look like?

This photograph illustrates two important ways that World War II served to advance movements for equality at home. First, women served as welders in heavy industry as a result of the Rosie the Riveter campaign, which was a government-run effort to encourage women to join the workforce. Until World War II, most labor unions and heavy-industry factories excluded women from applying for these jobs. The wartime emergency, in addition to the Rosie the Riveter public relations campaign, allowed women to take heavy-industry jobs, which were overall higher paying than other jobs. Moreover, the two women in this picture appear to be African American. African American workers, especially female workers, were hired as a result of the temporary breaking down of racial and gender barriers in the workplace, which led to a ratcheting up of the wage labor system. Also, the fact that this image was taken in California illustrates how the Second Great Migration, the movement of hundreds of thousands of African Americans who left the South and came to cities in the Northern and West, created a much larger population of African Americans in California during the war. All of these features are central to understanding how accessing more opportunities during the war — even if these opportunities would be temporary — sharpened expectations and ideals of what racial and gender equality could look like. Finally, students might consider the question, How do you think Californians responded to the arrival of thousands of African Americans in cities like Richmond and Oakland?