Beatrice Marshall's Oral History

Beatrice Marshall was interviewed by Christine Poole and Madeline Moore as part of the Northwest Women’s History Project.  In this transcribed excerpt of her interview, she recalls her experiences in Portland’s shipbuilding industry during World War II.  An unabridged version of this transcript can be viewed at the Oregon Historical Society’s research library.

After receiving specialized training for war-time industrial labor, Beatrice Marshall and her sister Ida moved to Portland to exploit their new skills in the city’s shipbuilding industry.  Because the war had sapped the nation’s industrial workforce of a large portion of its male workers, industrialists like Henry J. Kaiser, began to hire women in large numbers.  Like many other women, Beatrice and Ida hoped to take advantage of the newfound employment opportunities.  Unfortunately, the two sisters found that the color of their skin precluded them from most job prospects that were available to white women. Regardless of their specialized training, they were confined to jobs that required them to either push a broom, scrub floors, or scrape paint.

Further Reading:
Kesselman, Amy Vita. Fleeting Opportunities: Women Shipyard Workers in Portland and Vancouver during World War II and Reconversion. Albany, N.Y., 1990.

“Collections: Oral History Interview: Kathryn Hall Bogle on the African-American Experience in Wartime Portland.” Oregon Historical Society 93, 1993: 394 – 405.

“Reminiscence: Pat Koehler on the Women Shipbuilders of World War II.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 91, 1990: 285–291.

Honey, Maureen. Creating Rosie the Riveter: Class, Gender, and Propaganda During WW II. Amherst, Mass., 1984.

Written by Joshua Binus, © Oregon Historical Society, 2003.

Map It

Related Historical Records

Handbook for New Women Shipyard Workers

In 1943 Portland Public Schools produced a handbook designed to orient new women workes to life in the shipyards. One section dealt with the problems of childcare. 

During World War II, women were actively recruited for employment in the nation’s defense industries. In Oregon that meant laboring in the shipyards. Such employment proved attractive, offering working …

Iona Murphy at Oregon Shipbuilding Corp., Portland

This ca. 1943 photograph, taken by Ray Atkeson, shows Iona Murphy welding in an assembly building at the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation in Portland. During World War II, up to 30,000 women worked in shipyards in Portland and Vancouver, Washington, building tankers, aircraft carriers, and merchant marine transportation ships for the …

Nightshift Arrives Portland Shipbuilding

During World War II, up to 125,000 people worked in around-the-clock shifts at shipyards in Portland and Vancouver, Washington. This photograph, taken by Ray Atkeson, shows nightshift workers at the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation (OSC), located in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood. Atkeson worked as professional photographer to document Oregon’s people and …

Related Oregon Encyclopedia Articles

This entry was last updated on Sept. 18, 2019