Humanities, Research

Oral history team hunts for Rosie the Riveter war stories

The Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office will be part of the annual reunion of Rosie the Riveters in Richmond, as it sends interviewers in search of a few good women and their accounts of life and work in wartime.

RICHMOND — UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) is looking for a few (more) good women, those who may have wielded a riveting gun or a blowtorch back in the day.

Interviewers with ROHO, a research arm of the Bancroft Library, are attending a reunion of Rosie the Riveters today through Sunday. The annual event salutes the unlikely workforce of nearly 6 million women who rolled up their sleeves to take on the tasks of male workers dispatched to active military posts during World War Il and forging an unparalleled path for women in the process.

woman working on B-25 bomber engine

A young woman works on the cowling for a motor in a B-25 bomber assembled at the North American Aviation Inc., in Inglewood, CA. (Library of Congress photo)

Nearly 200 “Rosies” have already shared their sagas with ROHO, which posts them online in print and video excerpts. Now, ROHO is scouting for additional personal adventures to wrap up its Rosie collection.

ROHO staff will be chatting with some of the nearly 100 women from across the country who are attending this year’s get-together. It is taking place in Richmond at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park, with its memorial sculptures, structures, photos and plaques, and its education center at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000.

The reunion, hosted each year by the American Rosie the Riveter Association, is being held at sites along the Richmond waterfront, which served as a wartime focal point for shipbuilding and other military-related activities.

ROHO began conducting interviews with Rosies in 2002, relying on funding by the National Park Service, with support from individual donors. The interview team generally records video interviews in individuals’ homes and may arrange for in-depth interviews with some of this year’s reunion attendees.

“Since they are traveling from around the country, we are open to the possibility of interviewing them later at their locations, especially if we can get a few in a particular geographical area,” said David Dunham, project manager of ROHO’s Rosie effort.

In 2016, Dunham said ROHO will take its Rosie project to a new level by making interviews more accessible by collaborating with the National Park Service on a two-year project on an interactive website that will include thematic video excerpts, searchable keywords, mapping to find interviews by WWII homefront locations and migration, and expanded audio and video features,

While this effort is funded by an NPS grant, ROHO will need to raise $100,000 in matching funds and is accepting donations, with a designation of funds to go to the Rosie Project Match.