- During World War II, Rosie the Riveter was the star of a campaign to get more women to work in the defense industry.
- Rosie became an iconic image of working women.
- “We can do it!” Rosie’s motto inspired many women.
- During the war, American women entered the workforce in large numbers. There were many job openings since many men had enlisted in the military.
- After the war, one out of every four married women would be working outside their homes.
Rosie the Riveter was a fundamental character in the change from peacetime to wartime production in the U.S.
Rosie the Riveter was courageous and worked very hard in the war effort.
Rosie was a housewife who turned into a war hero. She made the machines necessary to fight and win World War II.
Posters with her picture became a symbol of wartime courage and patriotism.
Rosie P. Walter
The personality of “Rosie the Riveter” was inspired by Rosalind P. Walter, a WWII war worker.
Rosalind was one of the many women who worked in the war industry during World War II.
After high school, when she was only 19 years old, Rosalind started working as a riveter on Corsair fighter planes at the Vought Aircraft Company in Connecticut.
After Rosalind’s work got featured in a newspaper article, songwriters Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb were inspired to write the song “Rosie the Riveter.” The song was about how Rosalind and other women could do the same work as men while also caring for their families.
With the release of this song, the idea of Rosie the Riveter became more well-known.
Here are some lyrics from the song:
All the day long,
Whether rain or shine,
She’s a part of the assembly line.
She’s making history,
Working for victory,
Rosie the Riveter.
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage,
Sitting up there on the fuselage.
That little girl will do more than a male will do.
There’s something true about,
Red, white, and blue about,
Rosie the Riveter.
Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote a song that many artists have sung, but it is most commonly associated with prominent bandleader Kay Kyser.
The song’s release, inspired by Rosalind, helped create the image of Rosie the Riveter in the public imagination. This was in part due to illustrations and propaganda that got circulated.
Later on in her life, Rosalind P. Walter became a supporter of public television programming. She participated in a variety of philanthropic activities. She died in 2020.
Norman Rockwell paints Mary Doyle Keefe as Rosie
In 1943, Norman Rockwell called a 19-year-old phone operator in Arlington, Vermont, and asked if she would model for a magazine’s front cover. Her name was Mary Doyle Keefe.
Norman Rockwell was a painter and illustrator from America. He was well-known for his paintings and illustrations that reflect American culture.
Norman Rockwell did much of the cover art for The Saturday Evening Post magazine for nearly five decades.
The Saturday Evening Post got circulated to 4 million people in the 1940s. They always printed extra copies when a Rockwell painting was on the cover.
Mary posed for the painting twice. The first time, she was wearing a white blouse and shoes that the painter, Rockwell, did not like.
While posing, Mary stated that she did have a ham sandwich. She had the white handkerchief that peeped from her jacket pocket. The rivet gun was a simple fake.
Rockwell had transformed Mary, a tiny, 110-pound girl, into a muscular woman for the work. Later on in life, Rockwell apologized to Mary.
J. Howard Miller paints Geraldine Hoff as Rosie
Today, one of the most famous pieces of Rosie imagery is “We Can Do It,” created by J. Howard Miller and published by Westinghouse.
Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee created a series of posters to encourage people to support the war effort.
This image got based on Geraldine Hoff’sphotograph, who worked as a metal-stamping machine operator in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
A WOW bandana got seen on her head.
One of these posters became the ‘We Can Do It’ poster.
Surprisingly, this poster was not widely distributed during the war years, and there is no indication that it ever got seen outside the Westinghouse factory.
The poster “We Can Do It” became popular after being included in the Washington Post Magazine article about poster collections at the National Archives.
Women in the Workforce
The number of men drafted into the war created a lot of vacancies in factories, and this was because there was a lot of need for war supplies.
Many women doubted their ability to do a man’s job.
Married women with families did not want to leave their homes.
Through the War Manpower Commission, War Production Board, and defense industries, the federal government launched a massive recruitment campaign to get more women into the workforce.
Woman Ordnance Workers
Women played an important role in the war effort by helping to produce things like rockets, bullets, jeans, cannons, tanks, jeeps, boats, and planes.
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the young men of America left their factories and offices to join the military.
Many young women in America filled the traditional male jobs left vacant by those who went off to fight in World War II.
The women who produced military hardware were called WOWs, which stood for Women Ordnance Workers.
These women, symbolized by Rosie the Riveter, worked just as hard as the men they replaced. They wore hard hats and coveralls.
They operated heavy tools that most women had never heard of before the war. Women had never seen some of these tools before because they were not allowed to have these jobs.
The WOW bandanna
The WOW bandana became a popular emblem of the Ordnance Department’s 85,000 female employees.
The bandanna, according to a 1943 ad, is:
Water Repellent. Washable. Dust Proof.
The “WOW” Bandanna, designed in accordance with U.S. Army specifications, is an attractive, safe, and unifying head covering to identify Women Ordnance Workers.
About 27″ square, it is available either in Ordnance red with white Ordnance insignia or in white with red Ordnance insignia.
Every woman in your plant will want one–it’s a “WOW” for morale!
$3.75 per dozen
WAAC, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps
In 1942, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) got established by Congress. Hundreds of thousands of women volunteered to “free a man to fight” to help the war effort.
These women got given uniforms, and they replaced men in non-combat jobs.
The WAACs became part of the Armed Forces in 1943, and their name changed to Women’s Army Corps (WAC).
The WACs served many roles in the army: clerks, truck drivers, weapon testers, and aircraft carriers.
Women with mechanical inclinations repaired and maintained tanks and other vehicles.
Many of the jobs held by women were more dangerous than the jobs held by many of the men overseas.
Many women worked around the clock, bagging gunpowder and making artillery shells and other high explosives.
They faced different dangers in their jobs:
- hanging from scaffolds
- spray painting
- shooting hot rivets to the hulls of ships
- working with dangerous chemicals
Rosies in the Workforce
Rosalind was the first, but many other women worked in the war industries during World War II. They were known as “real-life Rosies.”
Rosie the Riveter became a symbol for all women who worked during the war.
During the four years of war that followed, the “Rosie the Riveter” movement got said to have helped drive the number of working women to 20 million, a 57 percent increase.
One out of five defense workers were women who had recently been students.
During World War II, for the first time in US history, more married women worked than single women.
The Bureau of Women Workers took a survey after WWII. It revealed that 75% of women workers preferred to remain employed outside their homes.
Working Together During the War
A lot of women worked together to raise their families.
They formed groups and shared tasks like cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes. Many people who had young children shared apartments and houses to save time, money, utilities, and food.
Many women forced to work together during World War II developed life-long friendships.
Life was difficult during the war because of rationing and shortages. There were not many clothes or food items available.
Tires, gasoline, meat, shoes, and anything made of metal were rationed during the war.
Women with children were often apprehensive about their children getting sick. Illnesses that would usually be easy to treat became more severe because of the lack of medical supplies. Antibiotics were in short supply.
These women continued working.
The women who contributed to the victory in the war helped change the workplace forever.