By Kathy Chouteau
Agnes Moore, a Rosie the Riveter wartime welder on the Richmond Home Front and a woman ahead of her time, passed away Jan. 6 at the age of 100. Moore exemplified what it means to be of service to one’s country, which she did by working as a journeywoman welder from 1942 to 1945 in Kaiser Richmond Shipyard #3.
“Agnes whole heartedly embodied the Rosie spirit,” stated Rosie the Riveter Trust Executive Director Sarah Pritchard in a statement following Moore’s passing. “Today will be filled with love, good memories and caring wishes for Agnes and her family. May Agnes’ grace and love of life carry on in all of us.”
Born in Searcy County, Arkansas in February 1920, Moore was one of seven children and the daughter of the local sheriff killed in the line of duty, according to her bio from the Rosie the Riveter Trust. She married at age 16 and had a one-year-old daughter when she and her first husband eventually followed her siblings to Salinas, CA in 1939 to work in the vegetable packing industry. When the couple divorced, Moore had to support herself and her young daughter.
She heard about a new opportunity to provide for her daughter—while also serving her country—in a quintessential 1940s way: on the radio. While out driving her car, a radio announcer said, “Women, do something for your country, go to the Richmond shipyards and be a welder!” Although Agnes didn’t know what a welder was, she identified it as way she could help bring the “boys” home from the war, per her bio. She arrived at the Richmond hiring hall dressed to the nines; when the receptionist suggested a job in the office, Moore declined, noting she was responding to the call for women welders.
Moore’s welding outfit was not nearly as glamourous as the one she applied for her job in: it consisted of heavy leathers for her jacket, bibs, and elbow-length gloves; solid, steel-toed boots; and her hair wrapped up in a bandana with a welder’s cap and hood on her head. If her work “uniform” was unglamorous, her job was even more so. Moore often found herself working in tight, poorly lit spaces for hours at a time, often kneeling or lying on cold steel decks or up on ladders welding overhead, per her bio. Her work environment could also be hot, smoky and dust-laden—not to mention loud from the bulkheads ringing with the ear-piercing sounds of the chipping guns and her fellow workers.
At first, Moore resided with her sister and brother-in-law in San Francisco and commuted to her job on the Home Front by taking a streetcar to the Ferry Building and then riding the ferry to Richmond. After remarrying in 1943, she and her husband Ray bought a home in Richmond. While on the job, her daughter received childcare provided to her as a shipyard worker.
Eventually, Moore went on to take the test to become a certified journeywoman welder, her pay rate subsequently increasing to $85.00 a week ($1,133.60 in 2015 dollars).
Although her work as a wartime welder was very difficult—and she was happy to give it up when the war ended—Moore’s work welding in the Kaiser Shipyards was one of the proudest and most rewarding experiences of her life, according to the Rosie the Riveter Trust. Late into her life, she remained active in Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park events and activities.
Donations in honor of “Rosie” Agnes Moore can be sent to: Rosie the Riveter Trust by clicking here or by mailing a check to Rosie the Riveter Trust, P.O. Box 71126, Richmond, CA 94807 (put Agnes Moore’s name in the check’s subject line); or the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, 884 Portola Rd. Ste. A7, Portola, CA 94028.