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Friday, 26 July 2013

Rosie the Riveter

Hello world!
It's me again.

A while ago I read an amazing article on Pop History Dig about Rosie. We all know her:

J. Howard Miller's 'We Can Do It!' poster  
commissioned by Westinghouse and 
shown briefly in February 1942.

I have decided to bring this article closer to home, so here it is:

♥♥ Who's that girl?
“Rosie the Riveter” is the name of a fictional character  who came to symbolize the millions of real women who  filled factories, munitions plants, and shipyards during World War II.  In later years, Rosie also became an iconic image in the fight to broaden women’s civil rights.
In 1942, Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters for the war effort.  One of these posters became the famous “We Can Do It!” image  — an image that in later years would also become “Rosie the Riveter,” though not intended at its creation.  Miller based his “We Can Do It!” poster on a United Press photograph taken of Michigan factory worker Geraldine Doyle.  Its intent was to help recruit women to join the work force.  At the time of the poster’s release the name “Rosie” was not associated with the image.  The poster – one of many in Miller’s Westinghouse series – was not initially seen much beyond one Midwest Westinghouse factory where it was displayed for two weeks in February 1942.  It was only later, around the 1970s and 1980s, that the Miller poster was rediscovered and became famous as “Rosie The Riveter.”  But both images of Rosie – Rockwell’s and Miller’s – were used to help enlist women in the WWII workforce.  In later years, and in fact up to present times, these images have became iconic symbols of women’s rights struggles, and are occasionally adapted for other political campaigns as well.  But it was during the World War II years that “Rosie the Riveter” got her start.

Norman Rockwell’s ‘Rosie The Riveter’ 
cover for the May 29, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post
(first time she's been called "Rosie")

In the Post’s cover illustration, Rockwell’s Rosie is shown on her lunch break, eating a sandwich from her opened lunch pail as her riveting gun rests on her lap.  A giant American flag waves behind her.  Rosie appears content, gazing off into the distance.  However, Rockwell portrays her with some important details, from the lace handkerchief visible in her right hand pocket, to her foot placed smack on the cover of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf at the bottom of the painting. 

♥♥ The Song
Rosie the Riveter appears to have come first in song, not in art.  In 1942, a song titled “Rosie the Riveter” was written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb and was issued by Paramount Music Corporation of New York.  The song was released in early 1943 and was played on the radio and broadcast nationally. It was also performed by various artists with popular band leaders of that day.
Here are the lyrics:

While other girls attend their fav’rite
 cocktail bar
 Sipping Martinis, munching caviar
 There’s a girl who’s really putting
 them to shame
 Rosie is her name

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 frail can do more than a
 male will do
 Rosie the Riveter

Rosie’s got a boyfriend, Charlie
 Charlie, he’s a Marine
 Rosie is protecting Charlie
 Working overtime on the
 riveting machine
 When they gave her a production “E”
 She was as proud as a girl could be
 There’s something true about
 Red, white, and blue about
 Rosie the Riveter

Everyone stops to admire the scene
 Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
 She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery
 Rosie the Riveter
 What if she’s smeared full of
 oil and grease
 Doing her bit for the old Lendlease
 She keeps the gang around
 They love to hang around
 Rosie the Riveter

Rosie buys a lot of war bonds
 That girl really has sense
 Wishes she could purchase
 more bonds
 Putting all her cash into national
 Senator Jones who is “in the know”
 Shouted these words on the radio
 Berlin will hear about
 Moscow will cheer about
 Rosie the Riveter!

♥♥ Real "Rosie"s
In June 1943, about two weeks after Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover appeared on newsstands, the press picked up the story of a woman worker named Rose Bonavita-Hickey.  She and partner Jennie Florio, drilled 900 holes and placed a record 3,345 rivets in a torpedo-bombing Avenger aircraft at the former General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division in North Tarrytown, New York.  Hickey’s feat was recognized with a personal letter from President Roosevelt, and became identified as one of many  real-life “Rosie the Riveters.” 

 WWII-era photo showing 
Dora Miles and Dorothy Johnson 
at Douglas Aircraft Co. plant in Long Beach, CA.

Other women workers doing riveting — as well as others generally who were filling heavy-industry “men’s” jobs all across the nation – e.g., “Wendy-the-welders,” etc. – also gained media attention during the war years.

A ‘Wendy-the-Welder’ in 1940s’ shipbuilding at Richmond, CA.

 In early August 1943, Life magazine featured a full cover photograph of a woman steelworker, along with an inside photo-story spread of other “Rosie” steelworkers, some quite dramatic.

Life magazine cover photo of August 9, 1943 
shows steelworker Ann Zarik at work with her torch.

Some of the photos showed the women wielding torches and working on heavy plate and structural steel with sparks flying, with others working in midst of giant steel cauldrons that carried the molten steel.

♥♥ Marilyn "the Rosie" Monroe
One of the “Rosies” during the WWII years was none other than Marilyn Monroe – well before she became “Marilyn the Hollywood star,” however. In the 1945 photo, Marilyn was then the 19 year-old Norma Jean Dougherty working at the Radioplane munitions factory in Burbank, California.

Marilyn Monroe, before she became a Hollywood star, appeared in a series of airplane factory photos in June 1945 
that led to her becoming a model and film star.

David Conoverwould later wrote: 
“I moved down the assembly line, taking shots of the most attractive employees.  None was especially out of the ordinary. I came to a pretty girl putting on propellers and raised the camera to my eye.  She had curly ash blond hair and her face was smudged with dirt.  I snapped her picture and walked on.  Then I stopped, stunned.  She was beautiful.  Half child, half woman, her eyes held something that touched and intrigued me.” 

Another of David Conover's photos of 19 year-old Norma Jean Dougherty.

♥♥ Rosie after WWII
Although many of the jobs held by women during WWII were initially returned to men after the war ended, the workforce would never be the same again.

Women at Douglas aircraft plant during WWII

Women discovered a new sense of pride, dignity and independence in their work and their lives.  Many realized their work was just as valuable as men’s, though for years, and to this day, an earnings disparity still exists.

I am grateful to Rosie (to all the Rosies out there!), for empowering women since 1942. Her strength is still so evident, and still so invigorating - she is even more powerful now, than 70 years ago.
Thank you, Rosie.
Because of you, women like me keep on fighting!

♥♥ Pinky Honey


  1. Stellar post and look at the real story behind this wonderful cultural icon. Earlier this year I picked up a Rosie poster from a yard sale for $3.00. It's not genuine vintage (I think the date on the bottom is something like '92), and it isn't in the best of shape, but it's on sturdy paper (to the point where I think it may perhaps have come in a frame originally) and was just too cool to pass up.

    Like all of your excellent posts, honey, I thoroughly enjoyed this one - Rosie is going to be on my mind all week now! :)

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you, dear.
      Rosie is an inspiration for all ages, and for all women over the globe! I believe her picture should be framed in hallways of every school, to give the guidance to girls. She's such a power-figure!

      Have a gorgeous day!