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Wednesday 22 September 2021

Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park

Today marks the one hundredth birthday of the National Parks Service's oldest active park ranger, Betty Reid Soskin. One hundred years old and still working to share her wisdom with the community! What a woman!

In honor of Betty Reid Soskin's milestone birthday, I figured today would be a good day to finally get around to sharing our visit to the national park where she works. Do you know which one it is? You can probably tell from the title of this post! It's Rosie the River WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond, California. 

Did you know that there are National Historic Parks as part of the National Parks Service? While many national parks serve to preserve natural landscapes for generations to enjoy, the historic parks serve to share important historical locations and moments in our history. We've been to a few different National Historic Parks including Rosie the River WWII Home Front, San Francisco Maritime, Boston National Historic Park which includes Paul Revere House and the Freedom Trail, and Klondike Goldrush National Historic Park, which contrary to the name, is in Seattle. 
Rosie the River WWII Home Front National Historic Park pays tribute to the civilians who worked tirelessly on the home front to support America's troops during World War 2. With men going off to fight in the war it was up to women to keep the industries that supported America's war efforts afloat. Over the course of World War 2, some six million women joined the workforce, many of them coming to work at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond where 747 ships were built during the war years. It was here that the iconic Rosie the Riveter character came about. There was no one particular Rosie, rather the character represents the resilience and can do attitude of the women who took on the work in the shipyards and surrounds. Betty Reid Soskin was one of these women who went to work at the Kaiser Shipyards, although due to segregation, as a black woman she was give menial tasks like filing index cards, and never worked on the warships with the white women. Along with other "Rosies" Betty Reid Soskin shares her story of working on the home front with visitors to the National Park.

I must admit that I really wasn't sure what to expect before visiting Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front. I'm a big history buff, but World War II isn't usually my interest. I wasn't sure what the kids would make of it either. I've got to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed our visit and so too did the kids. The visitor center is home to engaging exhibits with many hands on features, and a wealth of information. I thought I knew the story of the war time Rosies, but I learned so much more during our visit. For example, organized childcare wasn't really a thing prior to World War II, but with so many women joining the work force it became a necessity. The shipyards filled this need with onsite child care centers; the first of their kind. The need for more and more workers in the shipyards also lead to more diversity in the workforce.

The visitor center's exhibits shine a light on the day to day life of the workers on the home front; not just on their work life but also their home life. Exhibits include war time memorabilia, hands on replicas of the tools used in the shipyards, models of shipyards and victory gardens, plenty of signage and photography, and interactive scenes. You'll also find displays that highlight just how different life was for different members of the community based on their race and background, for example, how Japanese Americans were vilified. 

There are also some opportunities for fun photos with props and the exhibitions. You know I can never go past a chance for fun photos!

Being a part of the National Parks Service, kids are able to take part in the Junior Ranger program and earn themselves a badge. The kids walked around with clipboards filling out their questionnaires as they found the answers in the displays, before returning them completed to be sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive their badges.

Outside the visitor centers the exhibits continue with a memorial located about a mile away along the San Francisco Bay Trail and views over the site of the shipyards. You'll also find stunning views over San Francisco and the Bay, as well as plenty of space for kids to run around.

Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park is located at 1414 Harbor Way South, Suite 3000/Oil House, Richmond, California. 

The visitor center is open 10am - 5pm seven days a week excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Entry is free.

Make sure to check the calendar here for special events and your chance to meet with one of the original "Rosies". 

The Rosie the Riveter Memorial in nearby Marina Park is fully accessible and open daily from dusk to dawn. The memorial is located about one mile away along the San Francisco Bay Trail.

For more information about Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park visit https://www.nps.gov/rori/index.htm.

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