|Birth Location||Lake Village, Arkansas|
Rosalie Santine Gould lived near the Rohwer detention center in McGehee, Arkansas, and dedicated much of her time and efforts to preserving the story and the physical remains of the War Relocation Authority camp. In particular, she collected a number of artifacts from former detainees, all of which have now been donated to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.
Rosalie Santine was born in 1926 Lake Village, Arkansas, to Catholic Italian immigrant parents. As a child she and her family moved to Tiller, Arkansas, where she lived until she left home to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1943. She attended the university and two years of medical school before marrying Joe Gould and settling in Rohwer, Arkansas, in 1949. She and Joe had three children before his death in 1965 from a congenital heart defect. After her husband's death, Rosalie managed the family farm by herself, while also dedicating time to a number of organizations in her local community. From 1983-95, she served as mayor of the town of McGehee, and job which she said she "thoroughly enjoyed."
Preservation of Rohwer Detention Center
Though Rosalie occasionally took her children to play near the cemetery that was created by the detainees at Rohwer, she knew little about the experiences of Japanese Americans during WWII. After the war, an auction had sold off much of the property and structures from the camp to returning veterans and locals. As a result, the site itself gave few clues as to the community that had lived there for over three years, with the exception of the small cemetery with headstones and monuments which bore Japanese names. Her children had attended school in the old camp school buildings for three years, but still few people in the area, Rosalie included, knew much about Rohwer.
While serving as the president of the Women's Chamber of Commerce, Rosalie was approached by the president of the Chamber of Commerce, who asked her to host a dinner for former detainees from the Rohwer camp who were returning to dedicate a new monument in the cemetery. This dinner on May 30, 1982, was her first exposure to the subject of the Rohwer Camp, but she so enjoyed the meeting and the individuals involved that she offered her help in caring for the site and showing around anyone else who wanted to visit what little remained. Shortly thereafter, Rosalie began welcoming regular visitors from as far away as Los Angeles and also travelled herself to speak to audiences across the United States about the Rohwer detention center experience. She spoke with many of the former detainees and had many of them write down their stories so that she could learn more about the history and share the information with visitors and audience members. In 1992, she and George Sakaguchi obtained National Historic Landmark status for the site and they also sponsored a large reunion for the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the camp. She later attended the opening dedication of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles as an honored guest and has attended numerous other reunions in various locations around the country, including Branson and St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Torrance, California; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
In addition to speaking and hosting visitors, Rosalie became an unofficial repository for Rohwer camp items. Many of the detainees who visited brought items from their time in the camp. One of the individuals that she met at the original dinner meeting was Mabel Rose Jamison "Jamie" Vogel, who had worked as the art teacher in Rohwer High School during the war years. Mrs. Vogel had developed a friendship with many of her students and she kept much of the art that they had created during their years at Rohwer. After her meeting with Rosalie in 1982, the two women became close and when Jamie passed away in 1994, she left her collection of Rohwer art to Rosalie. Mrs. Gould kept the art along with the numerous other items that detainees had given to her in her home. In a 2006 interview, Rosalie estimated that around 2,000 former camp detainees had come to see the items, almost twenty graduate students had researched her collection from schools including the University of Maryland, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern Illinois, and the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.
As interest in her collection grew, and the number of visitors to Rohwer and nearby Jerome grew, West Coast museums expressed an interest in obtaining all or part of her collection, but Rosalie kept it in the hopes that it would one day find a home in Arkansas where she felt it belonged. In 2010, Rosalie's collection was finally donated to the Arkansas Studies Institute to create the "Rosalie Santine Gould-Mabel Jamison Vogel Collection," which contains over 10 linear feet of materials including photographs, camp correspondence, student artwork, and autobiographies from detainees. Rosalie had also expressed a desire to see a museum about the Rohwer experience housed in the old train depot of McGehee and she saw that wish realized in April 2013 when the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum opened inside the historic building. Rosalie's daughter Vivienne Schiffer is currently working on a full-length documentary about her mother and the uniqueness of the two camps in Arkansas. Today Rosalie continues to live in her home in McGehee and support increasing awareness about the Japanese American experience in Arkansas during World War II.
For More Information
Life Interrupted website: http://www.ualr.edu/lifeinterrupted/html/.
Ziegler, Jan Fielder. The Schooling of Japanese American Children at Relocation Centers During World War II: Miss Mabel Jamison and her Teaching of Art at Rohwer, Arkansas (Studies in American History). 2005.
The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, http://www.butlercenter.org/rohwer/about-the-collection.html
- Interview with Mrs. Rosalie Gould, by Adjoia Aiyetoro from the Women's Storytelling Project Series at the Institute on Race and Ethnicity at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, accessed on July 21, 2015 at http://ualr.edu/race-ethnicity/2014/06/27/wsp-interview-with-rosalie-santine-gould/.
- Quotes and personal history of Rosalie Gould from interview with author, November 16, 2006, McGehee, Arkansas.
- Interview with author, November 16, 2006, McGehee, Arkansas.