They welded pipes, they drew blueprints. And of course, they fastened munitions and machine parts together with rivets.
Seven decades after World War Two, Rosie the Riveter Day honours the women who kept America’s military assembly lines running and redefined workplace gender roles.
These Rosies still work – as national park docents to help educate the public about what the War and what they did.
To mark this landmark day, six of the original Rosies will be on hand at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.
Rosie the Riveter gets its name from a poster drawn by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller in 1942, part of the wartime propaganda effort.
There was no one “Rosie” although several women have come forward to claim that the image was modeled on their photo.
As an image, Rosie has been a first-class postage stamp, displayed at the National Museum of American History and on people’s bodies. She’s been a bobble-head doll and an action figure.
She has been slapped onto so many different pieces of merchandise that the Washington Post once called her the “most over-exposed” souvenir item available in the nation’s capital.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust explains the significance of the day in its news release:
“Most people don’t think of Rosie the Riveter as someone who paved the way for women’s equality in the workforce. The prevailing idea is that Rosie stepped up to fill a gap while men fought the war during World War II. While that was true, and many women were patriotic, a majority of women who went into the workforce as riveters, welders, electricians, engineers and more during the course of the years 1941 to 1945, were women of all ages seeking to gain high level skills and salaries after years of being passed over for jobs or doing backbreaking work as field hands, nannies and more. Some were young women who had not yet found decent work; some escaped abusive families. But whatever the reasons why they descended upon towns across the U.S. that were producing ships and planes for the war effort, they found a new freedom, good money, and a chance to excel in unfamiliar formerly “men’s” jobs. Women’s History Month is a perfect time to celebrate what the Rosies truly did, both for our country, and for women, as they changed the way we work.”
Their contributions made it possible for the next generation of women to pursue careers, including nontraditional roles such as firefighting and law enforcement.
Marian Wynn, 91, a former welder now living in Fairfield, California, agreed the honor was long overdue.
“We wouldn’t have won the war without the women,” she said. “I think we deserve it.”
The first Rosie the Riveter Day may be the last – if the House of Representatives doesn’t sign off on it becoming an annual event.
Sources: Reuters, East Bay Times, The Atlantic