Rosie the Riveter is a well-known American icon. Known as a feminist icon, Rosie represented American women who worked during World War II.
The women represented by Rosie the Riveter worked in factories and manufacturing plants that produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took an entirely new job, in order to replace the jobs that were held by deployed military men.
The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in 1942 in a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song became a hit; it 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 part of the assembly line.
She’s making history,
Working for victory
Rosie the Riveter
When the men returned from war, these women were expected to go back to their old jobs: doing housework, chores, etc. Although the government campaigned to have women return to being housewives, a few women continued to work in the factories.
The idea of Rosie the Riveter was inspired by the woman named Rosalind P. Walter. She “came from old money and worked on the night shift building the F4U Corsair fighter.” Later in life Walter was a philanthropist, a board member of the WNET public t.v. station in New York and an early and long-time supporter of the Charlie Rose interview show.
Rosie the Riveter also became very closely tied to another woman named Rose Will Monroe, who moved to Michigan during World War II. She worked as a riveter at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, building B-29 and B-24 bombers for the U.S. Army Air Forces.
According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, “Rosie the Riveter” inspired a social movement that 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.