IPEI Brings “Rosie the Riveter” for WWII Program

June 17, 2016

2016-05-09 10.17.34-1DeWitt Middle School eighth-graders participated in a two-day interactive history program in May designed to improve their understanding of the United States home front during World War II. Funded by an Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) Red and Gold Grant, DeWitt Middle School social studies teacher Pamela Engram has took on the role of “Rosie the Riveter”. “Rosie” is an iconic character depicted in J. Howard Miller’s propaganda poster produced by the Westinghouse Corporation and representing women who took jobs building bomber airplanes during WWII.

On the first day of the program, Engram dressed head to toe in denim, blue-collar clothes with a red and white scarf tied around her head and gave a “Rosie at Work” talk, set in San Diego’s Consolidated Aircraft B-24 Liberator plant the summer of 1943. Eighth-graders, role-playing as reporters vising the plant, asked “Rosie” questions about her job, and one student helped her attach two sides to the ridge of an airplane part using a rivet and bucking bar.

“The presentation was based on the actual experiences of many women who worked in what had been ‘men’s jobs’ before the war,” Engram wrote in a fact sheet handed out to participants.

Engram displayed ration books, a blue star service flag, and many other books and artifacts from the time period. Students also viewed posters encouraging women in the war effort, and analyzed the two different images of “Rosie the Riveter”, one by Miller and another by artist Norman Rockwell. They became familiar with the challenges facing women during this time period, including pay differences between men and women, as well as gender roles and issues involving gender identity.

During part two of the program, students participated in the “Rosie at Home” presentation, based on Engram’s family members’ experiences that were typical of many other people in the United States during WWII.

IPEI Red and Gold Grants are awards up to $500 for projects that strengthen and enrich learning in the Ithaca City School District (ICSD). Engram’s is one of two Red and Gold Grants designated in memory of Charles W. (Chuck) Brodhead, a founding board member of IPEI who continued active participation until his death in 2011. Brodhead made a bequest to IPEI that now funds two Red and Gold Grants each school year. Grants selected to be designated in his memory exemplify the creative ways Red and Gold Grants can strengthen and enrich the ICSD curriculum, have a positive impact on students, and actively engage learners.


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