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Women in World War 2-Rosie the Riveter
Rosie The Riveter - Not A Faceless Entity
What makes Rosie the Riveter's poster stand out from the other posters which advertised the various women working during World War II is that she seems to have a personality.
Rosie is wearing overalls and a turban and is showing us that she is rolling her sleeves up and getting ready to do some hard work.
There is no push to make women associate with them - the main difference between them and Rosie the Riveter is that most of them are in uniform.
Rosie the Riveter was meant to appeal to women civilians to get them to go to work in the factories.
The USA had joined World War Two in 1941 and Rosie made her first appearance in 1942 when the number of men leaving their jobs to sign up for the Armed Services left the States with the problem of vacancies in the factories - the men went to war but the work remained.
Just as in the UK, Canada and Australia, in World War 2, women stepped into that void.
Rosie - Not Just A Riveter
'Rosie the Riveter' offered the labour market propaganda a good alliterative title but of course the working women in World War Two didn't just do riveting.
Meda Brendall from Baltimore worked 7 days a week as a welder in a pipe shop.
It was a long day, working hard from 6 am to 4pm.
Meda had a young son at home and her husband was in the Armed Service.
She has described welding as 'art'.
She did a six week course and then it was work all of the way after that. She needed to make money for her young son and welding provided her with a reasonable wage.
Meda has also suggested that not all of her friends considered working as a welder to be 'correct for her station'. She was a well educated girl who was a member of her town's bridge club. But this just goes to show that a woman working in the USA during World War Two as a riveter, welder or factory hand could come from any walk of life.
So as well as Rosie the Riveter, there were also other non-poster icons like Wendy the Welder and Julie the Janitor, though these tended to be local phenomenon - Wendy hailed from California and Julie from Illinois but this is exactly what women needed - role models for other women to aspire to and follow into work.
Rosie the Riveter As Inspiration - Women Building Warships
The town of Richmond, California is an amazing place. Before World War Two, they had no shipyards. By the end of the war, they had produced more warships than any other town in the United States.
Richmond's population swelled from 24,000 to 100,000 virtually overnight when Henry J Kaiser chose its deep water docks as a shipbuilding site to equal no other.
The British at war since 1939 needed more warships and the USA were chosen to build them.
So in 1940 Kaiser started his Richmond project, then Pearl Harbour changed the course of US history and soon the USA and Kaiser needed warships of their own.
Richmond is especially famous for the number of African Americans employed (men and women) at a time when this was not all that common.
Women represented a huge proportion of Kaiser's workforce working as welders and riveters among other jobs. At first they were not treated very fairly but eventually fought and got better pay for their services to their country.
During World War Two, they build 747 ships at the yards in Richmond, an amazing achievement.
Kaiser Shipyard No. 2 is now the National Historical Park for Rosie the Riveter - a fitting site for such a historic icon.
Rosie the Riveter - The Song
"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 girl will do more than a male will do."
Although Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon in the USA, she actually got her 'identity' from a song by Redd Evans and J.J. Loeb.
The song was sung by a number of bands and singers - the video featured here is one such cover of the song with some interesting and relevant photos to accompany the music.
Evans and Loeb wrote the song in 1942 as a bit of a war drive to get women into work. In most of the allied countries, there were songs which directly related to the experience of war that everyone was going through.
In the UK, the most popular of these were songs like 'We'll Meet Again' by Vera Lynn and 'Run Rabbit, Run' by Flanagan and Allen.
The song, 'Rosie the Riveter' had the desired effect - there were 57% more women working during World War Two than before it.
Women certainly did their bit for the troops and for their country.
Norman Rockwell's 'Rosie the Riveter'
Norman Rockwell was asked to do his own version of Rosie the Riveter for the Memorial Day cover of the Saturday Evening Post and there is more to this Rosie than the original poster.
Firstly, she is kind of sassy and she is a 'bigger' girl than the other Rosie.
And her pose isn't just any old pose - Rockwell, ever the artist, posed her the same as the prophet Isaiah on the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.
Except, Rosie has chutzpah - she's a well read gal by all accounts, possessing a copy of Mein Kampf (it is under her shoe) but her pride and joy is her rivet gun. She even keeps it with her during her lunch break.
Rockwell was probably enamoured of the original Rosie but more enthralled by the many real women who were doing their bit in World War Two, working long hours to build war planes and warships whilst their partners were fighting abroad.
The painting of Rosie the Riveter now resides in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
The original model for the painting was telephone operator, Mary Doyle who sat for a photograph first, Rockwell preferred to work from still images. She was paid $10.
American Women After World War Two - "Goodbye Rosie The Riveter"
There can be no denying the crucial contribution of American women in World War Two who left behind lives as housewives and mothers and embraced the opportunity to make an important contribution to the war effort.
To have over half as many women working between 1940 and 1944 shows that the drive to get women into men's work, personified by Rosie the Riveter had been successful.
But what happened when the boys came marching home?
Well just as in Britain, Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand and elsewhere, women were expected to vacate the roles they had assumed during the war and return to their previous lives.
Men returned to the USA and returned to their old jobs. For the most part, women returned to their lives at home, caring for their families.
The US government actively persuaded women to return home because home morale demanded it - their men were returning home and they needed their women at home (and their jobs back of course).
The baby boom after the war in thought to be a direct result of the need to re-establish the importance of family life and after the terrible conflict of World War Two, people needed that stability in their lives.
After World War Two, the USA prospered and of course, in time, women did have a major role in the workplace; it is something we all take for granted now but during World War Two, their contribution was an absolute necessity and they served their nation well - Rosie the Riveter's poster's strapline was 'We Can Do It' and They Did It!
Many thanks for reading.