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Women in World War 2-Rosie the Riveter

Updated on April 23, 2017
Rosie the Riveter Poster
Rosie the Riveter Poster | Source

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.

Compare the posters featured in my other Women of World War Two hubs on Land Girls, WAAF, WRNS and the Nursing Corps and you will see that they are fairly generic in style.

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.

A woman welding pipes
A woman welding pipes

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.

Riveters working on ship parts
Riveters working on ship parts

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 Painting
Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter Painting

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.

Post war poster, praising the women's work in World War Two
Post war poster, praising the women's work in World War Two

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.

Women of World War Two-Rosie the Riveter Comments

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    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Jordan, thanks for looking in and I am glad you found one you liked!

    • Jordanwalker39 profile image


      7 years ago from NC

      I was stalking your hubs and came across this one. It is really sweet. I am very glad I found it.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      MNAN (Great name!) - Many thanks for stopping by to read and many thanks for your kind comment. I hope you enjoy the others too!

    • Mommy Needs a Nap profile image

      Michelle Clairday 

      7 years ago from Arkansas

      Excellent article. I'll definitely be reading the other articles in this series.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Linda - You know it! Thanks so much for your comment.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      India, thanks for the comment and thumbs up :o), I think Rockwell's Rosie has real personality doesn't she? Researching this article really got me interested in the American woman's experience of war.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Women rock and Rosie is our proof:) Excellent hub Julie!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      Two thumbs up for this well written introduction to Rosie The Riveter. It is truly brilliant what Rockwell did when creating his own version of the WWII icon. Great article, Jools99!


    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Janine, many thanks for your comment and I really appreciate you sharing it :o) I hope your hubby doesn't find any inaccuracies! Eek!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      Julie, this was so interesting and knew a little bit about Rosie the Riveter, but not anywhere as much as you detailed here. My husband is a huge WWII buff and actually bought him a replication of this famous poster framed, but very much enjoyed reading all the background information on it. I am sending him your link to read and have also voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Kelley, thanks for your comment - I am so glad that you liked it:o), I learnt a lot too; I didn't know much about the American woman's experience of war. Thanks for the vote and share, I appreciate it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Jools! What a cool hub. It's so true how WW II impacted women here in the U.S in so many ways. I'm so glad I read this. I learned a lot of useful information about our history. Voted up, useful, and shared! Kelley

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      teaches12345, many thanks for your comment - she was a great piece of marketing by the government and it did the trick - women building aeroplanes and ships - amazing.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Rosie did a great job in getting women to work in the factories. What long hours they had to endure though. Wonderful part of history that we should all remember and appreciate.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Thomas, thanks so much for your comment. Your comment about the magazine recipes is all too telling - women were 'needed' back at home and the government sold this idea widely and back home they went! Of course, things were never really the same again because the genie was already out of the bottle.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      7 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      The other day you promised this was coming and you certainly did not disappoint! Foremost, I am struck by the difference between Rosie's depiction and the depiction of the other women that you have so accurately pointed out! Excellent history and excellent artwork you have displayed here!

      During college I remember reading the period magazines from the time. What I found interesting was that in 1942-43 and such, the magazines were devoted to recipes making "quick" meals for families. Towards the end of 1944 and 1945 the recipes were much more detailed and involved...clearly...they were already getting ready to return the ladies to the home front.



    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      travmaj - many thanks for your comment, I get more inspired by these women the more I research.

    • travmaj profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      This is a fabulous tribute to women and the role they played during the war years. And what fabulous posters. I just want to keep on reading -

      and how difficult it must have been for many women to return to home duties after the war - the independence stripped away. I recall some of this era - memories!~ Thank you. Awesome and interesting

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Gypsy, many thanks for your comment and the share, I appreciate it. The more I read about the sacrifices of these women, the more I want to write about them. The hubs don't have many views but I really loved writing them.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      7 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Voted up and interesting. Thanks for sharing this very interesting hub. Great pics and tribute to these women. Passing this on.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Paula, I think it must have been so interesting to listen to all of the stories they had to tell. I need to go look for Curtis Aircraft now, you have piqued my interest :o) My grandmother worked at the biggest munitions factory in Britain but she never ever talked about it to me.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Michelle, many thanks for reading and for your comment, I appreciate it. Yes, our lives would all be very different if they hadn't blazed a trail first :o)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      7 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Jools....You always give us such interesting hubs to read.....and you do it so well. I had to chuckle while reading this since my Dad used to call my mother, "Rosie the Riveter." .....and because we asked him "why" (other than the fact that her name was Rose)....he would tell us the stories from the war era......and we learned so much this way. My Aunt was one of the many WOMEN who took charge and did "a man's job" at a factory called "Curtis Aircraft"......I don't know if she was a "riveter," but she had her tales to tell as well! Thanks for this great story, Jools... UP+++

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      A wonderful piece of history, Jools!! If women hadn't come out to work...not just in the USA but many nations would not have been the same. A hey ho to Rosie the Riveter and to you for writing this well researched and interesting piece of history! Voted up and shared!

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      So, the real deal, Bill - a riveter :o), amazing

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      She was a riveter in a shipyard here in the States!

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Billy, many thanks for stopping by and commenting. Where did your mom work? Was she a riveter or in a factory or shipyard? I am just so interested in this subject now.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is what my mother did during the war years. Fascinating part of our history...I still look at pictures of my mom in her work outfit and just shake my head in wonder.

      Great hub, Julie! Brought back great memories.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Sherri, you are very kind :o), many thanks for reading, commenting and posting. I think Rockwell did a great job with his Rosie but the original poster girl is the best one; she is rolling up her sleeves, not eating her sandwiches.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      This is a wonderful piece on Rosie the Riveter, with informative and engaging illustrations and resources. I especially enjoyed the history behind the Norman Rockwell painting. Pinned and also posted to our fb page, A Woman's Life's Work.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Carol7777, many thanks for dropping by to comment, I appreciate it. I rather like Rockwell's Rosie painting - she looks like she'd be a good laugh in the staff canteen.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      I love history and amazed at women's role and what a great job they did. In those days women were often not given credit. This is a great hu and I love the photos.

    • Jools99 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Pavlo, many thanks for your comment. I would love to know more about what was happening in every country. People tend to gloss over the Russians sacrifices in WW2 due to what occurred after the war. I am sure Russia's women gave just as much as the USA and UK.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      We live in different countries and have different history but in the WW2 our woman did great job! In the USSR women in WW2 also made a huge contribution to the victory. Men were fighting while their wives supported them and made their own efforts to make victory possible. Absolutely great hub! Thank you!


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