Rosie the Riveter

"Rosie the Riveter is the female icon of World War II. She is the home-front equivalent of G.I. Joe. She represents any woman defense worker. And for many women, she's an example of a strong, competent foremother...the woman in the bandanna rolling up the sleeve on her raised bent arm...

"It seems that about 1942, an artist at Westinghouse named J. Howard Miller created "We Can Do It!," probably as part of his company's war work. The federal government encouraged industries to try to get more people to go to work. "We Can Do It!" initially had no connection with someone named Rosie.

"The next step in the Rosie myth was apparently the song 'Rosie The Riveter (2.6 MB mp3 file)' by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, released in early 1943.

"Some of the lyrics go:

'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.'

"And skipping to the end:

'There's something true about,
Red, white, and blue about,
Rosie the Riveter.'

...The big changes that brought them into war work began in 1942. Men were going to war and industries were switching to war production. When in need, industries decided they were willing to hire women: after all, they wouldn't get drafted. At first, there was lots of reluctance on the parts of managers, husbands, male workers, and many women, too...

"To motivate them, between 1942 and 1944, there was what's been called an "intense courtship of women by employers and government." The U.S. Office of War Information produced a Magazine War Guide which gave publishers of magazines ideas, information, and slogans for their publications.

"This was a government-led effort to recruit women workers, to get women out of the home. Magazines were to write articles that appealed to the desire for glamor and good pay, but even more to patriotism. 'Women, you could hasten victory by working and save your man.' Rosie's appearance on the Memorial Day cover of the Saturday Evening Post implied that her work might help save soldiers' lives...

"The women themselves tell us some of the effects:

'My mother warned me when I took the job that I would never be the same. She said, 'You will never want to go back to being a housewife.' At that time I didn't think it would change a thing. But she was right, it definitely did. . . .'

'You came out to California, put on your pants, and took your lunch pail to a man's job. This was the beginning of women's feeling that they could do something more.'"

Quoted from the transcript of this video presentation from the Library of Congress.

And from the Library of Congress 1930s - 1940s color photo collection on Flickr come a selection of color photos that vividly capture "Rosie" at work.