Everyone has seen her picture a million times, even worn her image on their clothes. And who hasn’t imitated her famous pose? But who is the woman, or women behind Rosie?  And who are the men that conjured up her image during a propaganda campaign  effort to communicate the dire need for women to takeover in the workplace while men ~ turned soldiers ~ were whisked away during their wartime duties?  Rosie the Riveter is the female icon of Word War II. She is the home-front equivalent of G.I. Joe. She represents any woman defense worker. And for many women, she remains an example of a strong, competent foremother.

What’s In A Name?   During World War II the term “Rosie” was used to refer to all women who worked in defense industries and not just riveters. A “Rosie” represented the women who worked in the defense industries during World War II. It was a composite of the experiences of many real women, including Rose Bonavita, Rosalind P. Walter, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, and Rose Will Monroe. This embodiment of feminism and courage during the 1940’s was a strong reflection of the American women that worked in factories during WWII. Rosie the Riveter appeared for the first time in 1942 on a namesake song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song describes Rosie as a tireless worker on an assembly line, doing her part to help the nation during wartime. Then there was the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. These women, each of whom had already obtained their pilot’s license prior to service, became the first women to fly American military aircraft. They ferried planes from factories to bases, transporting cargo and participating in simulation strafing and target missions, accumulating more than 60 million miles in flight distances and freeing thousands of male U.S. pilots for active duty in World War II. 

Art Imitates Life  As the model for Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter,” Mary Doyle Keefe became the symbol of American women working on the home front during World War II. As a 19-year-old telephone operator, Keefe posed for the famous painting that would become the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.

Mary Doyle Keefe poses with the 1943 cover of the Saturday Evening Post for which she had modeled as "Rosie the Riveter" in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Keefe said in a 2012 interview that she  was much smaller than Norman Rockwell portrayed her but her bigger than life image was truly intrinsic. 

Weighing In On The Conversation When it comes to Human Real Estate, motherhood, sisterhood and womanhood represent the  neighborhood where I want to live.  I seek an eclectic “back to the future” feel, blended with an evolving landscape that returns me to an equal playing field for all. While I am passionately and innately the head cheerleader of my family’s team, women also need to strike a balance between our time in the bleachers and our involvement in the game.  By rolling up our sleeves, (or Sleeves 2 Go,) and representing this wonderful coalition of “I’m Every Woman,” we can be the example for our children as we wear many hats, or more fitting, bandana’s!”

Beyonce evoca Rosie

Recently, Beyoncè commemorated the famous icon by sharing on Instagram her picture with the lifted forearm and the fist making her personal statement of empowerment, feminism and hard work. Rosie continues to resonate with women from all generations. As does “We Can Do It!,” the poster that touted that anything is possible if we set our minds and hearts to it. What happened in the U.S.A. during those years, marked an important social change. Before WWII started, the working women rate was around a quarter of the employed rate. Thanks to some government efforts, like Rosie the Riveter’s propaganda, the rate of women workers increased to reach the 1/3 of the total by 1945. After the end of the war, some women continued to remain engaged in the job market marking the beginning of a huge cultural change on the representation of the gender roles. While many women chose to resume  their roles as housewives, this sparked the birth of the Baby Boomer Generation. Baby boomers are people born during the demographic Post–World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964. According to the U.S. Census Bureau,[2] the term “baby boomer” is also used in a cultural context. 

 “I Am a Real Life Rosie” Excerpts from ‘Rosie and Me’ “I have a tattoo of Rosie on my right arm as a symbol of how I became who I am today.”               

Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow is a 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photojournalist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)  Even today, Rosie’s signature expression and inherent strength are an inspiration to millions of Americans, myself included. “I first learned about Rosie when I was seven. My mom handed me a magazine to look through and I saw the bright yellow and blue background overlaid with a girl showing her muscles. I was so intrigued by the girl in the red polka-dot bandana. From that moment on, I constantly asked my parents who she was, what she did and why she did it. I wanted to be exactly like her when I grew up. My parents signed the papers for me to enter the Air Force at the age of 17. Three weeks after I graduated high school, I was on a plane headed to San Antonio, Texas, for basic military training. Although I do not get my hands dirty on an assembly line every day the way Rosie did, I still pull my hair back tight and use my hands to get the job done for our military and to provide for my family, having a can-do attitude, knowing I am never alone. Nor was Rosie.  Thinking of Rosie helped me get back up on my feet and continue to do good things with my life and become a better Airman, a better me. I am now a single mother of two children, full-time student and a military career woman. I give 100 percent in every aspect in my life.  Rosie taught me that all people, not just women, can do anything they want as long as they set their mind to it.” 

Rosie could quite sweetly be a derivative of Rose… for Those Who “Rose” Above during the most Challenging of times…  bridging the gap between generations and providing a lasting symbol for our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, friends, ourselves, our daughters and our granddaughters! Rosie the Riveter represents the historical catalyst for positive change but it is up to us, through our actions, our choices and voices, to be the catalysts for empowerment amongst future generations of girls and women and to teach our sons and husbands about equality. As we impart the historical and emotional lessons of compassion, independence, hard work and self-worth, we can be confident that these life lessons are priceless and timeless. Lessons that not only give a language to “how to live ethically and with fierce conviction,” but a voice to speak that language. A voice that our daughters and sons will need to use and one that will speak volumes to generations to come.

Sources:  Library of Congress, HISTORY,