With her rolled-up sleeves, clenched fist, and polka-dotted kerchief, Rosie the Riveter rose to stardom as a 1940s graphic-art icon who symbolized American civilian workers during World War II. Her battle cry of “We Can Do It” may have been wartime propaganda, but it worked—legions of women signed up for jobs building ships and manufacturing munitions.
Today, the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park preserves sites from that era of social change marked by challenging work. Located on the windy shores of San Francisco’s East Bay, Richmond was a pivotal spot for wartime manufacturing. Its population quadrupled during the war as migrants—especially women—flooded in to fill newly created jobs in 56 industries, including shipbuilding. Workers endured hazardous conditions, gender discrimination, and housing shortages—many lived in their cars or trailer camps—for the chance to learn valuable skills and earn a solid wage.
Start your visit with a trip to the Oil House Visitor Center. This brick building once housed the oil tanks and boilers that fueled the neighboring Ford Assembly Plant, where civilian workers assembled jeeps, tanks, combat vehicles, and personnel carriers. Watch the two short documentaries and try your hand at the rivet station interactive display. If you time your visit for a Friday, you may get to meet an actual home front worker from World War II.
Next, tour the Red Oak Victory cargo ship, the last remaining vessel of more than 700 constructed here during World War II. Then move on to the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, an outdoor art installation that’s an allusion to shipbuilding. Exhibits along the
stainless-steel path depict quotations, letters, photos, and memorabilia gathered from women shipyard workers.