I was recently in San Francisco with my pals Angel, Monte, and their two kids. Oh yeah, my wife Betty was there too 🙂
Angel has a thing for National Parks, and for the last few spring vacations we’ve taken with them, we’ve been dragged to twelve or fifteen different ones. On this trip alone we hit four. One of them was the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park. That name’s a mouthful, but it was a-freaking-mazing! And not for the reasons you might think.
I thought it would be cool to learn about the women behind Rosie—actually an Agnes—who, as of 2013 I think, was still kicking at 95. Of course, the visitor’s center had awesome displays and interesting videos and information boards galore. When we first arrived, sopping wet from the monsoon-like downpour outside, we were met by an awesome young Ranger who took the time to explain what we were about to see. She recommended we get tickets for a documentary that would be shown shortly, followed by a talk from the oldest living Park Ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, a chipper 94-year-old bundle of energy.
Movie time came. The film was full of women (and men) riveting and welding, doing the work of building 747 ships in 3 years and 8 months. This was a super accomplishment by ordinary people, as Betty mentions in a speech you really need hear. Click here. Trust me and just do it. It’ll only take about 13 minutes of your time, but that will be 13 minutes you’ll never forget.
Anyway, this movie we’d just watched was nothing Betty could relate to because it was a white woman’s story. Segregation didn’t stop with the beginning of the war or the end of the war. It wasn’t until 1944 that black women were even allowed to help build those ships. This is a part of the story that’s been forgotten, was entirely unknown to city planners when they sat down with Betty to draw up plans for the Rosie National Park site ten or so years ago. Betty impressed upon us, “What gets remembered is a function of who’s in the room doing the remembering.” Think about that for a minute. Those are fourteen very, very powerful words.
This day and age of equality and desegregation is, obviously and sadly, still a work in progress. But at the Rosie the Riveter visitor center, they’re working on doing their part to not forget, to make a point to actively seek what’s been lost. In working to accomplish this, they’re hunting for WWII LGBT stories. Check this link out here for more info, and share it. Our stories need to be memorialized, too.
While I wasn’t thrilled being dragged around to all these various parks, in the end, I wouldn’t have missed this experience for the world. Amidst today’s political divisiveness and angry, crazy rhetoric, I think a dose of Betty Reid Soskin is exactly what’s needed!