Rosie the Riveter High: Training Girls to Be Women Welders, Plumbers, Carpenters, and Electricians

There have long been debates about the merits of an all-girls school education or the benefits of attending a trade or vocational high school.

Well, what about a charter school that prepares teenage girls for careers as welders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and other trades? Check and check.

The school, Rosie the Riveter High, is located in Long Beach, CA and is actually attended by both girls and boys although its intent and mission is to open doors for women seeking nontraditional careers largely dominated by men.

Lynn Shaw, one of the women who helped start the school, has worked as a miner, steelworker, and longshoreman over the years. Being the only woman on the job is all too familiar to Shaw, but determined to break that gender divide she earned a doctorate in electrical engineering, pursued a teaching career, and began advocating for vocation equity. Today she heads the board of directors for Women in Non Traditional Employment Roles, a nonprofit economic development group that sponsors Rosie the Riveter High, and is a professor of Electrical Technology at Long Beach Community College.

About helping start Rosie the Riveter High Shaw says, “It’s about trying to change the way society looks at women…We just feel that women should have an equal opportunity.”

An equal opportunity for pursing nontraditional careers and the salaries that accompany them.

“Women in nontraditional jobs earn 20% to 40% more than women in what are considered ‘traditional’ women’s jobs.” says Shaw. “That’s $1 million over a lifetime.”

On top of hands-on vocational training, students take a full range of academic courses to earn a high school diploma and often receive college credits that are transferable to any 4-year university. More importantly, the students – both girls and boys alike – learn to embody the “We can do it!” attitude Rosie the Riveter made famous during World War II.

Rosie, a fictional character in American history, represents the American women who worked in war factories during World War II to replace the male workers who joined the military. In 1942 Rosie was made famous after she was depicted in a motivational poster with the slogan “We can do it!” calling on women to help fill the manpower shortage in factories while the men were at war. Unfortunately, when the war ended and then men returned home, the women were quickly forced out of their jobs and “back to the kitchen” but that injustice is for another post on another day.

Shaw herself serves as an example of the  “can do” spirit the school embodies. Her determination to create a world where women don’t have to worry about being the only one on the job, has created a unique space for young girls to receive the training, skills, and confidence  they need to enter these male dominated fields.

This “can do” spirit is also echoed throughout the school with reproductions of the 1942 Rosie the Riveter poster around every corner. I only wish I had been so lucky to inherit such an inspiring feminist icon as my high school “mascot.” I unfortunately got stuck with a frog (yes a frog – ribbit, ribbit).

Photo copyright: Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times -http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-rosie3-2009dec03,0,2061384.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fnews%2Flocal+%28L.A.+Times+-+California+|+Local+News%29   


43 comments

Wright J.
Wright J.10 months ago

Thankfulness to my best ever friend who suggested me to visit this blog, it’s beyond doubt miraculous!! san jose electrician

Mervi R.
Mervi R.6 years ago

Women can do everything men can and just as well, if not better! There definately should be more schools like this.

Elizabeth S.
Elizabeth S.6 years ago

This is a cool school.

Sarah D.
Sarah D.6 years ago

Women can do anything men can do. If they can do it, there's no reason to tell them "no."

Karol K.
Karol K.6 years ago

Good Article, Thanks

April Theberge
April Theberge6 years ago

There should be more schools like this.

Eve M.
Eve m.6 years ago

woohoo! i learned how to weld in high school, but my mother had to drive me all the way to a community college in the boonies to do it. welding and later classes in metalsmithing and gemology drove me to learn more chemistry and physics. i'm glad to hear about these kinds of hands on classes. rock on, girls!

Jennifurry L.
Jennifer M.6 years ago

I wish I would have had thee opportunity to attend this high school! I grew up in a family of loggers/carpenters, but no male in my family would teach me how to do either. I learned a little bit of hands-on from future partners, and I'm now studying to be a social worker. It would've been very empowering growing up to be taught one of these trades. I was always taught (in my youth) that welding, carpentry, mechanics etc. were the trades of men. I bucked the system in my youth (lol), but it only caused me grief and not fulfillment.

Citlalli Valles
Citlalli Valles6 years ago

I wish I'd been at such a school! I'm now studying to be a Civil Engineer, which I believe definitely classifies as a non traditional employment role - men outnumber women in my class by about six to one.

Chad Mccrory
Chad Mccrory6 years ago

I find it to be quite sad unless if there volunteering with habitat for humanity or some other kind of home building charity women who do jobs such as dry wall, insulating, or carpentry are often considered manly or butch.