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

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).

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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   


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42 comments

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2:34PM PST on Dec 30, 2009

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

2:54PM PST on Dec 26, 2009

This is a cool school.

3:43PM PST on Dec 8, 2009

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

11:33AM PST on Dec 8, 2009

Good Article, Thanks

5:42AM PST on Dec 8, 2009

There should be more schools like this.

11:53PM PST on Dec 7, 2009

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!

6:44PM PST on Dec 6, 2009

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.

12:15PM PST on Dec 6, 2009

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.

11:54AM PST on Dec 6, 2009

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.

9:48AM PST on Dec 6, 2009

My Mom at 4'10 and 95 pounds worked 2 non-traditional jobs after my Dad passed away. Not having an education and 4 kids to feed she had to do what was available. One job was operating a DitchWitch at a dam construction site. The other... truck driver. Both jobs in an age where men predominated and the bosses called her honey or sugar.
I,myself, was exposed to discrimination when I worked in new car sales. I had to 'share' my sales with the lead salesman and tolerate rude remarks.
I think it's time woman did ANY job they wanted to do and are capable of doing and be proud they can do!

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