Photo of Judy Hart, 1944
Judy Sue Hart, summer 1944, in Randall, Kansas. Photo credit: Gaylord Hart

Photo of Judy Hart, 1987, Superintendent, Women’s Rights National Historical
Park in Seneca Falls, New York
Judy Hart, Superintendent, Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York. The picture was taken in the new Visitor Center in 1983. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Judy Hart, 2007
Judy Hart, retired Superintendent, Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park, with Richmond City Port Director Jim Matzorkis. They were holding their breath as the 60 ton Whirley Crane was being lowered to its “new” place at the head of an historic graving basin in historic Shipyard # 3 where 747 ships were built for World War II. The picture was taken September 28, 2007. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Judy Hart from Rosie The Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral History Project.

Conducted by Richard Cándida Smith in 2005, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2014.

Judy Hart, founding superintendent of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park, details the steps involved in creating the park from its legislative inception in 2000 to her retirement in 2005. She also discusses her previous duties in the National Park Service, including her work as founding superintendent of the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York.

Just Do It, and Change Everything, and Everything Changes

Introduction by Judy Hart

The Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park is in Richmond, California in the shipyards that Henry Kaiser built in order to build ships for World War II. The story of starting up the Park quite parallels the story of starting up the shipyards.

President Roosevelt asked Henry Kaiser to build ships, and that meant building a new Shipyard. Open mud flats in Richmond that faced San Francisco Bay were chosen and provided to him. Scarce materials were allocated to the Shipyard. Because there were not enough workers for the four new Yards, Kaiser sent trains down to the south and collected families willing to come to California for the new jobs. Richmond grew from a population of 20,000 to 120,000 in just four
years, and 100,000 worked in the new shipyards. About 30 percent of the workers were women.

Henry Kaiser did not know the word impossible. He did what he set out to do. Ships were built while the shipyards were still being constructed. By the end of the war, 747 ships launched out of
the graving basins where they were built into San Francisco Bay and churned off to war.

The United States Congress created the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park. But within the National Park Service there were not sufficient resources to start it up. It started up anyway. And that changed everything, and then everything changed.

The contributions of the Rosies are becoming as well known as the more familiar home front stories of living on ration stamps for food, driving on gas ration coupons, collecting scraps for recycling, sharing homes, and supporting the troops overseas. And the Rosies have taken their rightful place in history. By going to work in the shipyards, and facing and overcoming the resistance of their bosses, and their coworkers, they changed the face of equal opportunity. They
showed that women could do anything. They learned that they could do anything.

The Rosie Park is a tribute to the spirit of the Rosies: Do not tell me I can’t do that. I can do anything. And to their mighty accomplishments with their feisty spirit and will.

The story of Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park begins much like the story of the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. The magnificent structures still standing from World War II in the new Park are all threatened with demolition? We can change intentions and save them if we work together with community will. We don’t know where the Rosies are? We can change that by working with the Ford Corporation to call nationwide for their names and
their stories. The stories of the Rosies aren’t recorded anywhere? We can change that working with The University of California videotaping their stories. The history of the structures isn’t known? We can hire historians and change that. No one has been in the historic Shipyard
Number Three for decades? We can change that. We just need a new road around the active Port of Richmond so we will build that road. The historic structures are deteriorating? We can change
that with creative new uses for the buildings that will create the funding to save them. You need a community leadership organization? Start up the Rosie the Riveter Trust.

We can do it all. It just takes a vision, and a will to work together to make it happen. And The Rosie Park has happened. Not easily. When a rocket is launched into outer space it uses 90 percent of its fuel gaining lift off and a few thousand feet of height. Then momentum takes over. Starting up a new National Park is the same: it takes a vision and lot of will and a lot of work to get it off the ground and then momentum can carry it through to its full potential.

The stories of the Rosies were once secret because of the national security concerns during the War. Shipyard Number Three was once a secret from decades being closed to the public because of security concerns for the active commercial shipping Port of Richmond. The remaining historic structures in the Park were virtually a secret because they were abandoned and a security risk. All of this is now in the public domain, for all to see and hear and be inspired by the
amazing stories of what Rosies and other home front heroes did for World War II. Henry Kaiser did it. The Rosies did it. The United States Congress did it. The community of Richmond did it. The National Park Service did it.

And so what did get done in this first lift off and a few years since? Ford Motor Corporation launched a call for Rosies and their stories, and 11,000 responded. The University of California at Berkeley videotaped over two hundred Rosies and other home front heroes, and their stories will be preserved there, with many published on the Regional Oral History Office [ROHO] website. Rosies have submitted 4,000 stories and donated 2,000 artifacts to the Park from around
the country.

The Park Service has opened a visitor center in the Oil House adjacent to the Ford Assembly Building. A new road carries visitors to the historic portion of Shipyard Number Three, now including a mammoth Whirley Crane hovering over a graving basin as it did during the war. Graving basins where the ships were constructed remain as built. The General Warehouse stands grandly there, and the Riggers Loft is being rehabilitated for new uses. The Maritime Child Care
Center has been rehabilitated and includes Park Service interpretation in the section open to the public. The mammoth Ford Assembly Building has been rehabilitated and filled with thriving businesses and the Craneway has become a popular event site. The Bay Trail is now extended through the area for bikers and walkers.

And not least of all, a Congressional Resolution enacted in 2004 honors the work of Rosies and establishes their nationally significant role in American history. Some of the stories of how it was done are included in this interview.

—Judy Hart

Additional oral histories from the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front Oral History Project

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