Rosie the Riveter
During World War II (1939–45), Rosie the Riveter was a popular image that represented the women who served their country by taking on the dirty and difficult jobs left vacant by men. Until the war, women were generally unwelcome in American workplaces. But with so many men Page 1356 | Top of Articledrafted to serve in the armed forces, women's labor became necessary. Jobs that had once been acceptable only for men were now open to women.
Rosie helped America win the war by building bombers, tanks, and ships. She worked in shipyards, lumber mills, steel mills, and foundries. She operated buses, cranes, and tractors. She helped the police officers, taxicab drivers, and government workers by taking over their duties when they left to fight the war.
The image of Rosie the Riveter appeared in several ways during the 1940s. The first was a promotional film and poster series sponsored by the government. A song written in 1942 made the name popular. Perhaps the most well-known visual images are two paintings. The first, by J. Howard Miller, shows a woman with her sleeves rolled up, flexing her biceps, with the words “We can do it!” The second, a portrait by Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) that appeared on the cover of the May 25, 1943, issue of the Saturday Evening Post, shows a female worker with a rivet gun, used in assembly operations.
Over six million women followed the example of Rosie the Riveter during the war. The extraordinary opportunities to work, however, disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared. When the war ended and the servicemen returned home from duty, women were dismissed from their positions so men could be hired. Rosie the Riveter represented the patriotic efforts of women on the American home front. Without a war, there was no longer a need for her.