Rosie the Riveter is a nickname for a World War II-era poster that shows a woman flexing her biceps. The poster was created in 1942 by artist J. Howard Miller, and used as a recruitment tool to encourage women to join the war effort (and work in factories). The image has since become synonymous with feminism, and many people have adopted her as their own.
The following is a guest post by writer Usman Khan
Rosie the Riveter – When Was She Created?
The character was first invented by John Jacob Loeb and Redd Evans in 1942. Same year a poster was created by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller. That poster was used by an electric corporation to recruit female workers under the caption “We Can Do It!”
But a more commonly known famous image was created in 1943 by an artist Norman Rockwell, who based it on a photograph of a female munition worker. He designed the character as a representation of working class women who had risen up through hard work to succeed in male-dominated fields like aircraft manufacturing and steel fabrication during World War II.
Rosie the Riveter – We Can Do It!
Rosie the Riveter poster was a World War II era symbol of women who worked to support the war effort. The poster featured a slogan “we can do it!” and a woman in a red bandana, and overalls and flexing her biceps. The graphic was designed by artist Miller and inspired by the work of women factory workers during that era.
The phrase “We can do it!” became a rallying cry among women working both in war production industries and on the home front, and Rosie came to symbolize their courage and determination.
The Secret Behind Her True Identity
The images, which were published in WWII era, were part of a larger project that focuses on the social and political impact of women’s roles during wartime.
Though the true identity of Rosie the Riveter has been a subject of debate since the 1980s. For years it was believed that Rosie the Riveter character was originally inspired by a Navy Machine shop worker from Michigan named Geraldine Hoff Doyle.
A few sources claimed that it was inspired by Rose Will Monroe who worked as a riveter at a bomber plant in Detroit. That woman was also part of a war bonds film.
According to some other sources Rosalind P. Walter from New York was the woman behind John Jacob Loeb’s song. That particular woman was in fact a Corsair Fighter planes’ riveter.
But it’s believed that the 1942’s poster was inspired by an image of a real life Navy munition worker (named Naomi Parker Fraley) in California. The image was taken by photographer Margaret Bourke-White, and it was released in 1943. That image featured a woman in nice heels, polka-dotted bandana and jumpsuit. The posters were distributed to factories and other workplaces throughout the country to encourage women to enter the workforce.
The true secret behind Rosie the Riveter is that she was not just one person, but rather a composite of many women who worked in factories during World War II.
James J. Kimble’s Work
The secret identity of Rosie the Riveter was discovered by a scholar named James J. Kimble. He was writing an article about the woman who had been photographed for a magazine cover and he found out that she was not Geraldine Hoff Doyle as it was believed since the 1980s.
He published his article in Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 2006 winter edition. Where he dug down the inspiration of a real life woman behind the infamous poster and for the first time he collected every possible evidence and concluded that Naomi Parker was the closest inspiration behind the women in the poster.
I have also created a movie on Marry Church Terrell.
Recognition Of This Iconic Character
Rosie the Riveter was widely recognized after the 1980s when the first ever 65 minutes long documentary was made on the work and life of Rosie the Riveter. Another documentary “Rosies of North” was made in 1999 on female workers of Canada during the war times.
It got its major recognition in written literature in 2009 by John Crowley’s famous novel Four Freedoms where Rosie the Riveter was extensively referenced. In October, 2004 a historical park was opened in California in that name. Where above 200 real life Rosies attended the opening ceremony. The park was opened in the memory of those women and to celebrate their crucial role during war times.
The name and this iconic character has been used since then in many forms such as names of clubs, fan clubs and other sporting organizations for women. In the late 2000s the infamous “We can do it!” The poster was widely printed on t-shirts, handbags and other accessories for women.
The character of Rosie the Riveter was created to represent more than 30,000 women who worked at the shipyard during World War II. She was not intended to be a feminist icon or a symbol of women’s empowerment; she was simply a fictional character in a series of posters. But later that was a more commonly known term for women working in heavy industries where they replaced men.
Her Role In Women Empowerment
Women were expected to leave their jobs from workplaces and factories after WWII ended and men returned to their homes. But many women continued to perform their duties in those domains. They used to get lower pays than their male counterparts and were usually demoted. But due to their selfless efforts and skills in the workforce men couldn’t move them away from those jobs. Which in result changed the workplace environment for both men and women.
After WWII ended, during the early 1980s Rosie became an icon for women’s rights and empowerment. Many organizations began using her image to promote issues like equal pay for equal work, fair treatment for both sexes, and other causes related to women’s rights at that time. She was a symbol of strength, determination, and a highly skilled worker.
Rosie the Riveter trust in California is honoring and supporting homefront workers during the National Riveter Days 19-21 March, starting from 2022.
- Encyclopedia of American Economic History
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