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By Lee Foster
The San Francisco region celebrates the huge national World War II effort that emanated from this area at the special Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park across the Bay from San Francisco in Richmond. To defeat the Japanese and German threat, the nation’s industrial genius was mobilized. A substantial component of this response occurred in Richmond. There Henry Kaiser, an industrialist and practical man, set up the operations and inadvertently affected major social change in America. The effects were subtle, as Richmond expressed a national effort that also nurtured individual opportunities. The Richmond population rose from 23,000 to 100,000 within a year, with many of the newcomers being African American migrants seeking and ultimately finding a better life. Henry Kaiser, who would not have characterized himself as a social revolutionary, saw that availability of 24-hour day care was a necessity for the six-million women in the War Effort, many with children, who would be working 12-hour shifts. Kaiser also concluded that a hospital system with assured and pre-paid health care was critical for all the workers. Today the Kaiser health care system is a hopeful model for efficient delivery of health care services with a strong emphasis on prevention rather than disease treatment. These institutions and their consequences are still visible in Richmond, California, today.