Rosie the Riveter Leaves the Industrial Workplace
While government planners and factory owners assumed that women’s industrial work during World War II would last only as long as the war lasted, many of the women had other ideas. After the war ended, despite their new skills, they found themselves forced to accept the same low-paying positions that had been the only jobs available to them before the war.
Ford had 40,000 employees during the war and 18,000 were women. When the war was over, they tried their darndest to get rid of the women. They said the women were unstable, that we’d been absent too much, that we had our kids to look after. In my case they said I was too fat! Ford went from 18,000 to 2,000 women after they’d hired back in ’46.
I knew that the job would terminate when the war was over and that’s why . . . I went to school after work for four hours so that when I got out of there, I could get a job welding because I really enjoyed it. They were needing welders at Mare Island [navy shipyard]. So I took my card and all my credentials and I laid my papers on the desk. He said, ‘If you was a man, we’d hire you, but we can’t hire you, you’re a woman.’ You have a lot of responsibility, especially a widow woman, a lone woman. My children had to be taken care of, and I’d bought a little home. It had to be paid for. I had to get a job somewhere, somehow. I know that’s what I was thinking about when I left there. I got a job in a restaurant working in the kitchen. Hot hard work. Heavy lifting. It was a lot harder than working in the shipyard and a lot less pay.
So I went to the airport and got a job out there right back in the cafeteria. I could always get these jobs, even if I didn’t want them. Any time there’s a restaurant job or a dishwashing job or a cooking job, I always felt like blacks could always get those, because they save those jobs for us.
I had a daughter I had to feed. So after I couldn’t get these other jobs I had to fall back on the only other thing I knew, and that was doing domestic work. And that was a very defeating thing for me.
Creator | Various
Interviewee | Various
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | Various, “Rosie the Riveter Leaves the Industrial Workplace,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed June 16, 2021, https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1523.