History: Who is Rosie the Riveter?

Rosie the riveter, image from voolas.com/celebrities-who-posed-as-rosie-the-riveter/

Rosie the Riveter is a cultural and feminist icon—representing the women who worked in factories during World War II. While Rosie was part of an American campaign to boost female employment rates during the war, similar initiatives were put in place around the world—resulting in a new age of female empowerment and women’s economic power.

As men left for the frontline in WWII, they were absent from their positions back home in factories, war production plants and various civil services jobs. With no men left to fill vital positions in the workforce, the U.S government garnered the help of the War Advertising Council, who quickly implemented a campaign to fill the void that soldiers had left absent.

The ‘Women in War Jobs’ Campaign was a propaganda campaign that used patriotism and images of women like ‘Rosie the Riveter’ to usher women into the workforce. The campaign targeted various groups of women; firstly, those already in the workforce were encouraged to advance to factory work for better wages (especially women from minority groups or those in low-paying jobs). Later, young girls were recruited immediately after high school, and married women with children were also encouraged to join the workforce. By 1945, the number of American women in employment is estimated to have been around 18 million, an increase of 6 million since 1940.The term ‘Rosie the Riveter’ comes from a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, which states:

Woman working on an airplane motor at North American Aviation Inc. plant in California. Photo by Alfred Palmer for the Farm Security Administration, June 1942, Image hoto from fullinsight.com

All day long
Whether rain or shine
She’s part of the assembly line.
She’s making history,
Working for victory
Rosie the Riveter

This was later paired with the iconic ‘We Can Do It!’ image painted by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Company War Production. Combined, ‘Rosie the Riveter’ became a cultural phenomenon and feminist icon.

Today, Rosie the Riveter is a symbol of women’s achievements and accomplishments in a world still dominated by patriarchal values. Rosie is an important figure in the fight for gender equality—if women could fill the positions of men and be considered equally capable of doing their jobs back in the 40’s, why should they not be awarded equal pay and equal rights more than 60 years later?

Rosie is a representation of the power of women—‘We Can Do’ anything we set our minds to, and that’s exactly the message we plan to share through Rosie Respect.

To me, as a writer and contributor for Rosie Respect, the symbol of Rosie the Riveter embodies everything I want to convey to young women: you are powerful, you are brave, you are beautiful, and you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. I hope that this can be a place for young women to explore what it means to be comfortable in their own skin, so that they can leave their web browser with the resources they need to be just as capable as Rosie herself—ready to embark on journeys of discovery and self-exploration in the big, bad world.

Sammi Taylor

Sammi is an aspiring journalist from Melbourne. She is passionate about feminism, youth issues and politics– and will always try to find a way to combine all three. She contributes regularly to Birdee MagazineTruth4Youth and various other corners of the internet. You can follow her daily ramblings on twitter: @sammiiitaylor.

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