By Kathy Chouteau
When it comes to my favorite things about living in Richmond, chief among them is the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park’s Visitor Education Center, and the Rosies’ pervasive “We Can Do It” spirit.
Color me Richmond proud, but when I walk into the Rosie Visitors Center overlooking our gorgeous city waterfront, I feel grateful to live here. Accompanying my deep admiration for the historical significance of the Rosie the Riveters is an appreciation of how their “We Can Do It” spirit—against surreal odds—prevailed through the ages to embody the essence of Richmond.
A step inside the Visitor Center opens up a portal to the WWII-era 1940’s, when in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, people across the U.S. relocated to Richmond to build ships to fight the Nazis and the Axis of Evil. Among these scores of individuals were the Rosies—women from a multitude of backgrounds—who stepped up for their country while their men fought the war and also waged personal battles for minority, women’s and labor rights along the way.
The Center’s interactive and educational exhibits make the Rosies’ experience come alive, as do its assortment of park films that offer an impactful snapshot of this tumultuous time in our nation’s history. A favorite interactive exhibit is the welder’s mask that you can peer into for a first-hand account of the Rosies’ welding experience. Often, visitors can even meet a real-life Rosie at the Center walking among its captivating WWII-era relics.
When you’re done exploring the Center, step outside its doors to see the nearby Richmond home front for yourself. The NPS even has a self-guided tour accessible via your phone’s app shop (Search “National Park Service”).
Aside from the national park’s historic wonders, I’ve also reflected—especially while at past Rosie Rallies—how the “We Can Do It” spirit of the Rosies is interwoven into Richmond’s community fabric. When the chips are down, don’t count us out, because we’ll come together, rally and create solutions. And we’ve got the grit to see our collective vision though to fruition. Just like the Richmond Rosies of yesteryear.
While at the Visitors Center, be sure to stop by its Gift Shop for Rosie treasures like red & white scarves, posters, drinking glasses, T-shirts and Junior Ranger vests for the kids, which my own son has had since he was quite young. When your littles wear the vest to the center—or other national park—they’ll get a hearty “hello” from the local rangers. You can also purchase the individual park’s small pin to add to their vest to mark their visit. Additionally, check out the park’s Holiday Gift Guide for stocking stuffers and gifts.
The Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, in Richmond. Call (510) 232-5050. The Visitor Center is open to the community from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.