Mary Beth Kinsey
Mississippi's Ingalls Shipyard and Their Contributions to WWII
Located on the east bank of the Pascagoula River on the coast of Mississippi, Ingalls shipyard produced and provided over seventy ships for WWII. The war impacted Mississippi's economy and society, and Ingalls shipyard impacted the war effort in return. Ingalls was one of the nation's largest industrial employers during the war years. As Mississippi transitioned from an agriculture-based state to one of industry, the work force of Ingalls made a significant transition as well. As the men left for the war, women traded their aprons and make-up for welding uniforms and sweat. The majority of ships produced during the war years at Ingalls were welded and constructed by the hands of women. Women became a vital component of Ingalls shipyard and their hard work contributed to the war effort while they also became an example of women's equality and perseverance all across the nation.
Five of the images included are of cargo ships produced by Ingalls during WWII, from the first all-welded ship known as the SS Exchester, to the following ships: the SS Sea Tiger, SS Sea Tarpon, SS Sea Pegasus, and the African Comet & African Meteor. The five images of cargo ships would not be possible without the women welders of Ingalls, a number of whom are shown in the sixth image. During the war years, Ingalls worked constantly to produce the needed number of ships for the U.S. Navy. Rosie the Riveter, the famous propaganda created to encourage women to join the workforce, became a symbol for women's equality. Rosie the Riveter was created to recruit women into the workforce; and for the first time in history, women's contributions to their nation were being recognized. The propaganda Rosie the Riveter, combined with the famous slogan, We can do it!, was a reflection of women's attitudes during WWII. Working outside of the home may not have been an entirely new concept for women, but it was understood that there were fewer jobs for women than for men, while at the same time the available jobs did not pay as well. However, Rosie the Riveter changed this idea. While the men were away, it was obvious that workers were needed. At Ingalls, it became the woman's responsibility to produce the ships, as well as their responsibility to support the Allie's from the home front. During WWII, the percentage of women in the workforce increased from 27 percent to 37 percent. Clad in her bandana and determined expression, Rosie the Riveter was an icon for patriotic women and helped recruit the necessary hands needed in the workforce at Ingalls.
The images of the ships are significant because these ships played a vital role in the war effort and were constructed by the hands of Rosie the Riveters from all across the coast. While many ships were scrapped thirty or so years later, the image of their glory days contributes to the history of Ingalls' significance during WWII. "The Women Welders of Ingalls" image represents all the women who were not afraid to get their hands dirty and who stepped up willingly to the plate of hard work. The significance of the images is not as much in their historical value as it is in their reminder of the contribution of Ingalls' Shipbuilding to WWII. Over sixty years after the end of the war, these symbols of Mississippi's role in WWII are far from forgotten.