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Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United Statesmarker, representing the American women who worked in war factories during World War II, many of whom worked in the manufacturing plants that produced munitions and materiel. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military. The character is considered a feminist icon in the US.

History

The term "Rosie the Riveter" was first popularized in 1942 by a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song was recorded by numerous artists, including the popular big band leader Kay Kyser, and became a national hit. The song portrays "Rosie" as a tireless assembly line worker, doing her part to help the American war effort:
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


A real-life "Rosie" at work
Although real-life Rosie the Riveters took on male dominated trades during WWII, women were expected to return to their everyday housework once men returned from the war. Most women opted to do this. Later many women chose to return to traditional work such as clerical or administration positions.

Rosie the Riveter was most closely associated with a real woman, Rose Will Monroe, who was born in Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1920 and moved to Michiganmarker during World War II. She worked as a riveter at the Willow Runmarker Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michiganmarker, building B-29 and B-24 bombers for the U.S. Army Air Forces. Monroe achieved her dream of piloting a plane at the age of 50 and her love of flying resulted in an accident that contributed to her death 19 years later. Monroe was asked to star in a promotional film about the war effort at home. The song "Rosie the Riveter" was popular at the time, and Monroe happened to best fit the description of the worker depicted in the song. Rosie went on to become perhaps the most widely recognized icon of that era. The films and posters she appeared in were used to encourage women to go to work in support of the war effort.

According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, the "Rosie the Riveter" movement increased the number of working American women to 20 million by 1944, a 57% increase from 1940. Although the image of "Rosie the Riveter" reflected the industrial work of welders and riveters during World War II, the majority of working women filled non-factory positions in every sector of the economy.What unified the experiences of these women was that they proved to themselves (and the country) that they could do a "man's job" and could do it well. In 1942, just between the months of January and July, the estimates of the proportion of jobs that would be "acceptable" for women was raised by employers from 29 to 85%. African American women were some of those most affected by the need for women workers. It has been said that it was the process of whites working along blacks during the time that encouraged a breaking down of social barriers and a healthy recognition of diversity African-Americans were able to lay the groundwork for the postwar civil rights revolution by equating segregation with Nazi white supremacist ideology.

Conditions were sometimes harsh and pay was not always equal—the average man working in a wartime plant was paid $54.65 per week, while women were paid about $31.50. Nonetheless, women quickly responded to Rosie the Riveter, who convinced them they had a patriotic duty to enter the workforce. Some claim that she forever opened up the work force for women, but others dispute that point, noting that many women were discharged after the war and their jobs given to returning servicemen. Leila J. Rupp in her study of World War II wrote "For the first time, the working woman dominated the public image. Women were riveting housewives in slacks, not mother, domestic beings, or civilizers."

After the war, the "Rosies" and the generations that followed them knew that working in the factories was in fact a possibility for women, even though they did not reenter the job market in such large proportions again until the 1970's. By that time factory employment was in decline all over the country.

On October 14, 2000, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park was opened in Richmond, Californiamarker, site of four Kaiser shipyards, where thousands of "Rosies" from around the country worked (although ships at the Kaiser yards were not riveted, but rather welded). Over 200 former Rosies attended the ceremony.

The documentary film The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter addresses the history of Rosie.

J.
Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!", commonly mistaken to be Rosie the Riveter
Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Rosie the Riveter
The image most iconically associated with Rosie is J. Howard Miller's famous poster for Westinghouse, titled We Can Do It!, which was modeled on the middle Michigan factory worker Geraldine Doyle in 1942.

Shirley Karp

In 1943-1945, Shirley Karp Dick (who was the original Rosie during 1939-1941) revived her role as Rosie the Riveter. She was paid $6 to model. Two of her most famous photos were of Rosie treading on a book written by Adolf Hitler, and of her in a U.S fighter (with another woman fueling up the plane). During her tenure as Rosie, Shirley was part of the movement that motivated over 11 million women to join in World War II, by doing the paperwork, making guns for soldiers, or doing other service in the war effort.

Shirley Karp died on January 12, 2009at the age of 85; at the time she was the oldest living Rosie the Riveter model.

Homages

A "Wendy the Welder" at the Richmond Shipyards
According to Colman's Rosie the Riveter, there was also, very briefly, a "Wendy the Welder" based on Janet Doyle, a worker at the Kaiser Richmond Liberty Shipyardsmarker in California.

In the 1960s, Hollywood actress Jane Withers gained fame as "Josephine the Plumber," a character in a long-running and popular series of television commercials for "Comet" cleansing powder that lasted into the 1970s. This character was based on the original "Rosie" character and thus owes much to exemplary women's efforts in the traditional male workplace.

More recent cultural references include a character called "Rosie" in the video game BioShock, armed with a rivet gun, In the video game Fallout 3 there are billboards featuring "Rosies" assembling Atomic Bombs while drinking Nuka-Cola. Rosie the Riveter action figurine by Accoutrements, although this is loosely based on Miller's anonymous poster, rather than Rockwell's painting.

See also



References

Sources

  • Bornstein, Anna 'Dolly' Gillan. Woman Welder/ Shipbuilder in World War II. Winnie the Welder History Project. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College. February 16, 2005.
  • Bourke-White, Margaret. "Women In Steel: They are Handling Tough Jobs In Heavy Industry". Life. August 9, 1943.
  • Bowman, Constance. Slacks and Calluses - Our Summer in a Bomber Factory. Smithsonian Institution. Washington D.C. 1999.
  • Cabanis, Helen. Woman Riveter in World War II. Rosie the Riveter Collection, Rose State College, Eastern Oklahoma Country Regional History. Center. [Rosie the Riveter Collection, Rose State College] March 16, 2003.
  • Campbell, D'Ann. Women at War with America: Private Lives ina Patriotic Era (Harvard University Press: 1984)
  • Hresko, Mary and Mary Vincher Shiner. Women Workers in World War II. [75464] May 21, 2001.
  • Meacham, Clarice. Woman Welder and Riveter during World War II. Personal Interview. December 13, 2004.
  • Regis, Margaret. When Our Mothers Went to War: An Illustrated History of Women in World War II. Seattle: NavPublishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-87732-05-0.
  • "Rosie the Riveter" Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. Paramount Music Corporation, 1942.
  • Ware, Susan.Modern American Women A Documetary History.McGraw-Hill:2002.184.
  • Wise, Nancy Baker and Christy Wise. A Mouthful of Rivets: Women at Work in World War II. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994.


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