Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon for working women during World War II. After President Roosevelt entered America in World War II, the workforce diminished as men from all over the country enlisted in the military, the women at home stepped up and flooded the workforce. Women from all walks of life entered the workforce. Housewives, secretaries, and even school girls began to go to work. They worked in factories, drove street cars, ran heavy construction equipment, worked in lumber and steel mills and much more. The women proved that they could do the same jobs that men had and did it very well.
During the war, women helped the war effort by increasing the entire workforce by fifty percent. Racial barriers were broken as minority women went to work as well. Child care facilities began sprouting up so mothers could work as well and most of these child care centers were built near the factories for the convenience of the families. This not only allowed women to work for their country but also gave them a way to earn a wage and to earn their way in the world. These women worked hard as well. They had to prove themselves as competent workers and did just that.
The name Rosie the Riveter can be traced back to a woman named Rose Will Monroe. Then Hollywood actor Walter Pidgeon was touring the Ford Motor Company aircraft assembly plant when he met Monroe. The actor talked Monroe into starring in a film promoting the war effort.
Norman Rockwell then created the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter which appeared on the Memorial Day issue of the Saturday Evening Post, May 29, 1943. The image depicted a woman wearing overalls, and goggles. She also wore a leather armband and her bicep was flexed and sticking from a rolled up sleeve, She had a large power tool on her lap and a sandwich in the hand of her flexed bicep. She also wore lipstick. The background of the picture was an image of the American Flag. It also had the caption “WE CAN DO IT”. The image has changed over the years but the idea never did.
Of course this came to an end when World War II ended. Munitions jobs were no longer needed so women were laid off. Some women even faced ridicule and harassment for wanting to stay in the workforce. The contribution these women made to the war effort would never be forgotten as they will be forever immortalized in song, books, and movies. Also, there is the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. It has a Rosie the Riveter Memorial honoring the women’s efforts during the war.
The inscription on the memorial reads: You must tell your children, putting modesty aside, that without us, without women, there would have been no spring in 1945.