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Ann Rosener (1914-2012)

Introduction & Biographical Essay | Resources

Introduction & Biographical Essay


Introduction

Since the beginning of the women's studies movement in the 1970s, Ann Rosener's photographs have intrigued those exploring women's changing roles. But little information has been available about Rosener. This biography attempts to reduce that gap.

Portrait of Ann Rosener
Washington, D.C.
Portrait of Ann Rosener,
United States OWI
(Office of War Information) photographer.
LC-USW3-028565-E

From February 1942 until July 1943, photographer Ann Rosener documented preparations for war and home front activities for the Farm Security Administration. In 1942 Rosener covered mid-western states and in 1943 she worked principally in her native California. Her photographs illustrated several newspaper stories about war support activities but they were not published again for decades.

Rosener arrived at the FSA project too late to enjoy the close mentoring that director Roy Stryker maintained with staff in earlier years through written correspondence. When FSA scholars located Rosener in California in the 1970s, she declined interviews and asked that her privacy be honored. After Rosener died on May 19, 2012, her obituary provided a few other facts.

The approximately 800 photographs in the FSA/OWI Collection constitute the holdings of Rosener's work in the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division holdings of Rosener's work. Rosener's low profile as a photographer during and after the FSA project and the dispersal of individual photographers' work by region and category within the FSA/OWI file helped to keep her work hidden until the advent of online access. Now that her work can be gathered electronically, a clearer picture emerges of a creative woman working at mundane assignments to help her country win an international war. The personal papers of project director Roy Stryker, the source of much contextual information about other photographers on his project, contain no correspondence with Rosener.

Early Life

Ann Rosener was born Nov. 25, 1914 in San Francisco, California, a third generation Californian. Her mother was Beatrice Scheelin (1884-1938). Beatrice's father emigrated from Bavaria in 1854, graduated from University of California at Berkeley in 1874, and operated a business in San Francisco. Ann's father, Leland Sylvan Rosener (1878-1963, Burlingame, CA) was born in San Francisco the same year that businessman Leland Stanford co-founded the California Street Cable Railroad Company. In 1891, Stanford established Stanford University near Menlo Park where the Rosener family and later Ann and her brother (Leland Sylvan Rosener, Jr., 1911-1974) would live for much of the twentieth century. Leland, Sr. graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1899 and worked as a mining engineer. Throughout his life, Leland, Sr. participated in Jewish social organizations. Census records show that the Roseners moved frequently in the San Francisco area before they settled in Menlo Park and had as many as six servants at a time from various U.S., European, and Japanese locations, something that could contribute to a cosmopolitan household. According to ship passenger lists, they also traveled to Europe and Hawaii.

When Rosener graduated from the all-female Smith College in 1935, she had become an independent thinker. After college, Ann lived at home and was registered to vote as a Democrat although her parents had always been Republicans. Her obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle described her as a liberal and a lover of poetry and photography and graphic design.1

Photographer for the FSA/OWI

Rosener photographed for the Farm Security Administration from approximately June 1941 until about June 1943, by which time its name had changed to the Office of War Information, to reflect America's entrance into World War II. Her thirty-one assignments took her around Washington, DC, and close-in Maryland, as well as to Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and California. Her work fell into three broad categories: women working outside the home; women practicing home economics in their own homes and providing health and nutrition services; and 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 who were 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. She photographed young girls operating lathes and drills, producing gas masks and flare guns, working as riveters, and assembling B-24E bombers. Young women also repaired cars at filling stations, harvested and canned asparagus, operated farms, drove buses and armored cars; served as radio broadcasters; and worked as mechanics on locomotives.

People descended from immigrants from Axis countries worked on assembly lines producing tanks. Even young children were shown doing their parts to help the war effort by attending day care centers established at the plants where their mothers worked.

Field trips for the "flying nun" pre-flight class. . .
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,
Washington, D.C.
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-DIG-ppmsc-00249
Manpower. Americans all. The country of this war worker's birth cringes under the brutal heel of the Nazis. Charles Kaper, born in Czechoslovakia,. . .
Manpower. Americans all.
The country of this war worker's birth cringes under the brutal heel of the Nazis. Charles Kaper, born in Czechoslovakia, processes parts for medium tanks in an Illinois factory not far from the newly-founded Lidice, . . .
Pressed Steel Can Company,
Chicago, Illinois.
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-005941
Women in war. Supercharger plant workers. 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. . .
Women in war. Supercharger plant workers. 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. . .
Allis Chalmers Manufacture Company,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-007014

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. Her photographs show women selling cans of meat grease they salvaged from cooking, for 4 cents per pound for dark and 5 cents for light grease. Her pictures accompanied an article "Grease for Uncle Sam" in the August 16, 1942 Los Angeles Times. The article said, "From each 10 pounds of kitchen grease saved a pound of glycerin will be made. From that pound of glycerin ammunitions plants make nearly two and one-half pounds of nitroglycerine, the destructive giant which blasts battleships, tanks, and plane . . . . Save your grease for your country." 2

Other photographs show a female home economist telling a group of housewives how to cook nutritious meals despite wartime food rationing. A headline for the photo read, "Proper Nutrition Means Earlier Victory."3 Housewives learned how to "extend" rations with unusual cuts of meat and make gingerbread without sugar which was heavily rationed. On December 4, 1942, Rosener's photographs of braised stuffed hearts accompanied an article titled "Meat Alternates, Extenders Help Voluntary Rationing and Budget-Balance," in the Christian Science Monitor. 4

And, of course, there was the Victory Garden push for civilians to grow vegetables for home use so agribusiness produce could feed the troops.

The motors of many refrigerators require periodic cleaning.. . .
The motors of many refrigerators require periodic cleaning. If your model is one of these, keep coils free from hampering dust and grime by weekly sessions with a wire brush or a vacuum attachment.
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-DIG-fsa-8e10786
"I'll carry mine." Betty Jane Rhodes, popular Paramount Pictures star, shops and carries her own parcels, . . .
"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
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-008243
"Share The Meat" recipes. Braised stuffed heart. Brown the hearts on all sides in fat, then place in a covered baking dish or casserole.
"Share The Meat" recipes. Braised stuffed heart. Brown the hearts on all sides in fat, then place in a covered baking dish or casserole. Add a half of cup of water, cover closely and cook until tender in a very moderate oven (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit). Calf hearts require about one and a half hours, beef hearts will require much longer--four to five hours to cook till tender
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-006642
Hitler's helpmates. Mabel Wattwaster is helping to win the war--but she's working for the wrong side. As she drones gossip into the telephone, her toast burns merrily away. . . .
Hitler's helpmates. Mabel Wattwaster is helping to win the war--but she's working for the wrong side. As she drones gossip into the telephone, her toast burns merrily away. She is not only wasting food and power, but is also impairing the efficiency of her toaster by letting it overheat. . . .
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE613-D-004479
Hitler's helpmates. Adolf has only the most complimentary things to say about Mrs. Miranda Glucose. . . .
Hitler's helpmates. Adolf has only the most complimentary things to say about Mrs. Miranda Glucose. She has simply captivated him with her Axis-crable behavior. When the possibility of sugar rationing was first mentioned, this far-sighted lady bought up enough sugar to feed twenty-five American families for the next six years. . . . Happy diabetes, Miranda.
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE613-D-004477

A third topic is "Americans All," illustrating news stories promoting the idea that citizens were making contributions essential to the war effort. Rosener and others made pictures to support the idea "American All-- First and second generation Americans working together to build tanks and airplanes, with no thought of differences of race or creed."5

The Farm Security Administration had promoted the concept that with patriotic unanimity, Americans would be able to overcome political, racial, religious and ethnic boundaries to confront economic hardship. Now they could come together to form "an arsenal of democracy," as President Franklin D. Roosevelt phrased it, to win the international war. Farm Security Administration photography director Roy Stryker agreed to have his staff work on that project for the Coordinator of Information's Foreign Information Service (FIS), which later became part of the Office of War Information. The function of the FIS was to promote programs "in the United States and abroad about the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government."6

To support the idea of "Americans All," Rosener's photograph of two African American men operating complex machinery in a Midwest factory that made medium-size tanks illustrated a story titled "Manpower: Americans All" in the Norfolk [Virginia] Journal and Guide on October 10, 1942.7 On October 17, 1942, her photographs were featured in a full-page article titled "Negroes are Important Cogs in Nation's War Machines: Turning out Guns at International Harvester," published in the Cleveland Call and Post. On December 5, 1942, her photograph of African American female high school students reconditioning spark plugs in an aircraft manufacturing plant appeared in the article "Case Facts of Flight Against Prejudice-or-Lessons in a Southern Run-Around" in the Norfolk [Virginia] New Journal and Guide.9

Her photographs show physically handicapped manpower at an engineering company plant; infantile paralysis victims manufacturing parts for airplanes; and the Maryland League for Crippled Children employing physically handicapped young women in filling an engineering sub-contract.

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. . . .
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.
September 1942,
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-005951
Manpower. Handicapped workers. Joseph Witte, twenty-eight years old, is one of Uncle Sam's disabled war workers. . . .
Manpower. Handicapped workers. Joseph Witte, twenty-eight years old, is one of Uncle Sam's disabled war workers. With both legs afflicted by infantile paralysis, he's nevertheless an expert lathe operator and assistant foreman in a Baltimore factory. He's shown here turning the inside radius of spacers, which are part of an airplane motor's supercharger.
White Engineering Company,
Baltimore, Maryland,
September 1942.
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-005737

Post-War Work

After the war ended in 1945, people wanted to forget rationing, making do, women working outside the home, and working toward a common goal. Rosener continued her work as a photographer but she was so modest that many of her longtime friends did not know about her early prominence as a photographer.10 She then settled in California where she was married briefly to Los Angeles art dealer Frank Perls. Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Motherwell were close friends who gave her paintings or inscribed drawings to her.11 She moved in social circles that included Modernist architect Richard Neutra, Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, abstract artist William Brice, and art collectors Sidney and Frances Lasker Brody.12 In 1951 she and Ruth C. Woodward wrote about the development of the borax industry.13 In the early 1950s she did fashion photography in Hollywood but she had returned to the Bay Area by the 1960s.14 From 1964 until 1988, she worked for Stanford University where she designed exhibition catalogues including Design for Nuclear Research, a 1966 exhibition that examined the aesthetics of science and machine, and Toulouse-Lautrec, a 1972 exhibition of prints and drawings donated to the University.15 In 1977 Rosener founded her press, Occasional Works, for which she served as editor, typesetter, printer and publisher. She published 25 works by acclaimed and little-known writers such as Julian Bell. Rosener died in Menlo Park near Stanford University on May 19, 2012.

Rosener's FSA Photographs Rediscovered

A Coast Guard motor lifeboat provides escort to San Francisco's crab fishermen as a wartime precaution.
A Coast Guard motor lifeboat provides escort to San Francisco's crab fishermen as a wartime precaution.
San Francisco, California.
Ann Rosener, photographer.
LC-USE6-D-010158

Although the FSA photographs of New Deal era poverty enjoyed a new popularity during the grassroots history movement of the 1960s, Rosener's photographs of factory work, rationed foods, and women performing factory work were largely forgotten until the late 1980s, when two projects brought her work to light: the 1987 publication of Let Us Now Praise Famous Women about the women who photographed for the FSA, and the 1989 exhibition "The FSA in Illinois: Chicago as Seen by the Farm Security Administration Photographers, 1939-1943." 16

Rosener's studies of women during the war have become popular and are destined to become more so as they are represented by more high resolution images on the Library's Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection.


Notes

1 Ann Rosener: Death Notice San Francisco Chronicle

2"Grease for Uncle Sam," Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1942, F16.

3 "A Page of Interest Primarily to Women: Proper Nutrition Means Earlier Victory," Norfolk Journal and Guide, April 24, 1943, A9.

4 "Meat Alternatives, Extenders Help Voluntary Rationing And Budget-Balance," The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 4, 1942, 10.

5 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004680748/ Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LOT 1972.

6 http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/208.html

7 "Manpower: Americans All," Norfolk [Virginia] New Journal and Guide, October 10, 1942, B14.

8 "Negroes are Important Cogs in Nation's War Machines: Turning out Guns at International Harvester," Cleveland Call and Post, Oct. 17, 1942, 24.

9 "Case Facts of Flight Against Prejudice-or-Lessons in a Southern Run-Around," Norfolk [Virginia] Journal and Guide, Dec. 5, 1942, 11.

10 http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?pid=157944904

11 Nancy H. Packer, email to Beverly W. Brannan, July 20, 2012.

12 Alice Shapiro, telephone conversation with Beverly W. Brannan, July 5, 2012.

13 Ruth C. Woodward and Ann Rosener. The Story of the Pacific Coast Borax Co[mpany] Division of Borax Consolidated, Limited, n.p., 1951).

14 Nancy H. Packer, email to Beverly W. Brannan, July 20, 2012.

15 Nancy H. Packer, email to Beverly W. Brannan, July 20, 2012. Florence's Family Album. http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:qprMffzQw...

16 Andrea Fisher. Let Us Now Praise Famous Women: Women Photographers for the U.S. Government, 1935 to 1944: Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Pauline Ehrlich, Dorothea Lange, Martha McMillan Roberts, Marion Post Wolcott, Ann Rosener, Louise Rosskam / Andrea Fisher. New York: Pandora Press, 1987.


Prepared by: Beverly W. Brannan, Curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division, 2013. Last revised: 2013.
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