Ann Rosener, Documenting the Home Front

Ann Rosener. Photograph, between 1935 and 1945. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d29661

Ann Rosener. Photograph, between 1935 and 1945. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d29661

A new biographical essay about photographer Ann Rosener (1914-2012) sheds light on her wartime work as she focused on the contributions of women workers and other aspects of the World War II home front.

In the early 1940s Rosener documented preparations for war and home front activities for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) by contributing some 800 photographs to the FSA/OWI (Office of War Information) Collection. Her work fell into three broad categories: 1) women working outside the home; 2) women practicing home economics in their own homes and providing health and nutrition services; and, 3) people overcoming social barriers to work together for the good of the country.

One theme showed women and others filling essential jobs formerly reserved for able-bodied men, many who were off serving in the armed forces. Rosener showed women learning aviation science from a nun; former actresses producing aircraft motors; former professional baseball players building ships; and people crippled by polio manufacturing small machine parts.

Washington, D.C. Field trips for the "flying nun" pre-flight class, including inspection tours of hangars at the Washington National Airport. Here, Sister Aquinas is explaining engine structure to her students

Field trips for the “Flying Nun” pre-flight class, including inspection tours of hangars at the Washington National Airport. Here, Sister Aquinas is explaining engine structure to her students. Photograph by Ann Rosener, June 1943. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.00249

To replace men who have been called to armed service, many young girls like 19-year-old Jewel Halliday are taking jobs never before held by women. Her job is shuttling workers between two Midwest war plant. Allis Chalmers Manufacture Company

To replace men who have been called to armed service, many young girls like 19-year-old Jewel Halliday are taking jobs never before held by women. Her job is shuttling workers between two Midwest war plant. Allis Chalmers Manufacture Company. Photograph by Ann Rosener, October 1942. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b07729

A second theme instructed women in “making do” on the homefront so that more resources could be allocated to the war. They were instructed in “conservation of durable goods”–vacuuming refrigerator coils and defrosting freezers regularly to reduce electricity use, remaking worn out adult clothing to fit children, walking rather than driving to run errands, and salvaging cooking grease to sell for bomb production.

San Francisco, California. Sign on the top of a hill in the residential section

San Francisco, California. Sign on the top of a hill in the residential section. Photograph by Ann Rosener, January 1943. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d31930

War housing needs. Crowds of homeseekers wait in line for housing information in every "boom town" war housing center. Like millions of Americans who have migrated to busy industrial areas, these newcomers to San Francisco are hoping for news that a house, a room, or even a bed will be made available for them before the day is over

War housing needs. Crowds of homeseekers wait in line for housing information in every “boom town” war housing center. Photograph by Ann Rosener, February 1943. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b08269

A third topic, “Americans All,”  illustrated news stories promoting the idea that citizens, “with no thought of differences of race or creed,” were making contributions essential to the war effort. The FSA had promoted the concept that with patriotic unanimity,  Americans would be able to overcome political, racial, religious and ethnic boundaries to confront economic hardship. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt phrased it they could come together to form “an arsenal of democracy” to win the international war.

"I'll carry mine." Betty Jane Rhodes, popular Paramount Pictures star, shops and carries her own parcels, patriotically cooperating with the "I'll Carry Mine" Campaign, sponsored by the Office of Defense Transportaion to save vital delivery equipment for essential war uses

“I’ll carry mine.” Betty Jane Rhodes, popular Paramount Pictures star, shops and carries her own parcels, patriotically cooperating with the “I’ll Carry Mine” Campaign, sponsored by the Office of Defense Transportation to save vital delivery equipment for essential war uses. Photograph by Ann Rosener, 1942 or 1943. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b05675

Manpower. Americans all. Being of a different racial strain from Hitler or Hirohito, Guy L. Miles wouldn't stand much chance of survival in an Axis-controlled America. Pressed Steel Can Company, Chicago, Illinois

Manpower. Americans all. Being of a different racial strain from Hitler or Hirohito, Guy L. Miles wouldn’t stand much chance of survival in an Axis-controlled America. A skilled machine operator who makes parts for medium tanks in a large Midwest factory, he’s fighting the fascist fanatics as grimly and intensely as America’s men on the fighting fronts. Pressed Steel Can Company, Chicago, Illinois. Photograph by Ann Rosener, September 1942. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b07376

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we appreciate anew the many ways in which Rosener and the women she photographed assumed new roles in support of a nation at war.

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