Samuel J. Redman: Would Rick Santorum Call Rosie the Riveter a Snob?

Roundup: Historians' Take

Samuel J. Redman is a Ph.D. candidate in history at UC Berkeley. He is also an academic specialist at the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) of the Bancroft Library. At ROHO, he is the lead interviewer for the Rosie the Riveter/WWII American Homefront oral-history project. His dissertation examines the use of human remains for the purposes of research and display in the United States.

Rick Santorum’s recent criticism of President Obama’s call to make it possible for all Americans to advance their education or training as elitist snobbery makes me wonder what the GOP candidate would say to Nancy Deanda.

Before taking her married name, Nancy Miramontes was born in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska in 1925 to immigrant parents from Mexico. She recently recounted her story to me as a part of the Regional Oral History Office’s World War II / American Homefront Oral History Project—a collaboration with the National Park Service. Miramontes’ family worked in agriculture in Nebraska until the Great Depression became so severe that they picked up started for California in search of work. At the onset of World War II, Nancy and her sister – like the many young women of their generation who came to be known collectively as Rosie the Riveters—sought employment in the defense industry....

Miramontes found tremendous joy in her new profession. Her hard work and skill in welding resulted in a tangible contribution to the war effort. She was not alone in her experience, as countless other World War II era women were able to gain training and enter the workforce thanks to government programs. Rather than making them feel dependent, elitist, or out of touch, the support that women were given in the war—and the skills they obtained—made them want to achieve even more. Miramontes found herself eager to see other women, as well as her own children, “stay in school.”...

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