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Rosie the Riveter

Franklin D Roosevelt

Rosie the Riveter: Franklin Roosevelt was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. One of the important events during his presidency was the contribution to the war effort made by women who were typified by the fictional character of "Rosie the Riveter".

Definition and Summary of the Rosie the Riveter
Summary and definition:
Rosie the Riveter is a famous icon representing the women workers who made their contribution to the US war effort during WW2.

"Rosie the Riveter" was not a real woman, she was a fictional character and the subject of a popular song by written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song and the name inspired artists who created posters featuring 'Rosie' wearing practical, hard wearing factory clothes brightened by a red bandana tied around her head. 

Who was Rosie the Riveter? Rosie the Riveter was a fictional character used by the US government and the War Manpower Commission and in posters and war propaganda to encourage women to help in the war effort.

What did Rosie the Riveter represent? Rosie the Riveter represented the American women who worked in factories, munitions plants and shipyards during WW2.

Who created Rosie the Riveter?
An artist at the Westinghouse Corporation named J. Howard Miller created the famous "We Can Do It!" poster although it initially had no connection with someone named Rosie. The theme was continued by Norman Rockwell who designed a picture to appear on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, a popular weekly magazine on May 29, 1943. Norman Rockwell, possibly having heard the Rosie the Riveter song, featured his character leaning on a lunch box with the name "Rosie" on it.

Rosie the Riveter song: The term "Rosie the Riveter" was first used in 1942 in a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song tells the story of "Rosie the Riveter" who worked on the riveting machine in an aircraft assembly line.

Rosie the Riveter History
The history of Rosie the Riveter began when the US government called upon manufacturers to produce greater amounts of war goods. The Graphic artist J. Howard Miller was hired by Westinghouse's internal War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters to display to the company's workers to raise morale and boost production and not seen much outside the company. The Norman Rockwell version was loaned by the Saturday Evening Post to the US Treasury Department for use in posters and campaigns promoting war bonds.

What does Rosie the Riveter symbolize?  In later years, "Rosie the Riveter" also became an iconic American image symbolizing the fight to for women’s civil rights.

Facts about Rosie the Riveter
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Rosie the Riveter.

A Hollywood movie called "Rosie the Riveter" was made in 1944 reflecting the fame and popularity of the icon. The movie wasB-grade romantic wartime comedy made by Republic studios starring Jane Frazee as Rosie Warren, a young woman who worked in an airplane factory.

Women who worked in the factories and shipyards were referred to as "Rosies". One of the most famous “Rosies” during the WW2 years was none other than a girl called Norma Jeane Mortenson - before she became the Hollywood movie star known as Marilyn Monroe.

Thousands of American women, of all ages and backgrounds, rolled up their sleeves and went to work to help the war effort.

Patterns of employment in the United States shifted as married women joined the single girls in the workforce. By 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home.

In 1941 there were 14.6 million working women but as WW2 gained in intensity the number of working women  soared. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the United States workforce increased from 27% to nearly 37%. By 1944  there were nearly 20 million working women, although most of them earned 50% less than men in wages

At first the jobs for women were in sewing or on line assembly but eventually women were trained and moved into work traditionally done by men. The type of work  suitable for women like 'Rosie the Riveter'.

Women's fashion radically changed during WW2. Skirts and dresses were simply not practical for women like "Rosie the Riveter" who needed different, tougher and hard wearing clothes for work. At first they adapted men's clothes but practical women's clothing soon became available.

Women began to wear trousers made from hard wearing materials such as denim or cotton twill. The women would wear the pants with a short-sleeved button down blouse that was tucked in at the waist

Trousers or pants as a regular item of women's clothing were not readily accepted until WW2 in either Britain or the U.S. They were a statement of independence and equality to that of men.

Other women, especially those working the munitions factories, started to wear coveralls or overalls. The overalls were usually made of blue denim or heavyweight cotton canvas in brown or blue and worn with a cotton blouse underneath that was softer to the skin than the rough materials the overalls were made from.

The coveralls were loose fitting and buttoned down the middle. They were often long-sleeved to offer protection that fitted tightly around the wrists and ankles to avoid loose ends getting caught in machines.

Metals that were traditionally used in women's clothing such as fasteners, boning for corsets and zippers were all abandoned as metals were allocated to be used for the military. Buttons were used to fasten clothing.

For heavy work women wore boots to protect their feet. Women who worked in airplane factories wore slip on loafers. The soft soles of the loafers would not dent the airplane and the slip on style, without ties or straps could not get caught in machinery

The typical types of jobs undertaken by the "Rosies" were often dirty and greasy and with soap being rationed women had a difficult time keeping hair clean. Many women stared to adopt shorter hair style but those who preferred to keep their hair long wore scarves, turbans or bandanas around their head to prevent their hair being caught in machinery.

A Headscarf or bandana (a large, printed kerchief) was used to create the Rosie the Riveter style headwear. Bright colors detract from the drab colors of the clothes - red with white spots was the favored color and pattern used by 'Rosies'. Red socks complemented the red bandana.

How to tie a bandana like Rosie the Riveter:

  • Fold a bandana or scarf into a triangle and place on the head so the long side fits around the back of the head

  • The middle tip of the bandana should fall down the forehead towards the nose

  • Tie the outer tips into a knot on the top middle of the head

  • Tuck the middle tip of the bandana under the knot

  • This is the easiest way to tie a bandana like Rosie the Riveter

The hairstyle worn in the posters featured a short curled fringe set high on the forehead peeping out of the bandana

The "Rosie the Riveter" song was recorded by numerous artists including the Four Vagabonds and the big band leader James "Kay" Kyser

The famous Hollywood actor Walter Pidgeon, working for the government War Bond effort, made a short movie promoting the war effort in which he featured a real “Rosie the Riveter” worker named Rose Will Monroe. He met Rose Will Monroe while touring Henry Ford Motor’s Willow Run aircraft factory.

Goldie Hawn’s 1984 Hollywood movie 'Swing Shift' told of the lives of the 'Rosies' of WW2.

The end of WW2 brought about the end the factory careers of the majority of the 'Rosies' who returned to their lives as housewives with lasting memories of their participation and support of the war effort.

The number of women in the workplace began to increase in the 1960's and the fight for Women's Rights in the workplace triggered the ideals of feminists and Second Wave Feminism.

US American History
1929-1945: Depression & WW2

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