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Rosie the Riveter: An icon that changed the American workplace

Rosie Gets Her Closeup

In 1943, Westinghouse Company released an inspirational poster by artist J. Howard Miller depicting a determined woman in work clothes and a red polka-dot kerchief, flexing her arm, with a word bubble proclaiming “We Can Do It!”

This image became iconic of a war effort — and the civilian sacrifice on the home front — that culminated in the successful end to the war 75 years ago. This poster came to represent “Rosie the Riveter.”

Norman Rockwell painted an homage to Rosie the Riveter, which ran on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943[1]. His version featured Rosie holding a rivet gun, and a lunch pail bearing her name. And in 1944, Rosie the Riveter became a Hollywood film directed by Joseph Santley and starring Jane Frazee[2].

Evans and Loeb’s lyrics tout that Rosie’s production output was rated “E” (for (Excellent), sowing the seeds for her importance as a feminist icon. Rosie could do a man’s work, and do it well[3]. Real women across the country were discovering the same.

After the war ended, many women left or were laid off from the workforce. But the historic impact of their labor had already been made. From factories to offices, women had proven their worth as employees. They had a whole new story to tell their daughters about “women’s work

As the historic spotlight falls upon the end of World War II this year, it will honor soldiers and civilians alike. It will highlight the 16 million American men and women who served in the armed forces, bringing an end to aggression that affected nations on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific.[4]

And it will highlight the civilians on the home front, who fueled the war effort by answering the call that resonates even today: “We Can Do It!”

Christine Martinez is programs & partnership manager, UOPX Office of Military & Veteran Affairs, and a retired U.S. Navy Boatswain’s mate senior chief. She used her GI Bill® to earn a bachelor’s at ASU. She also earned a Marketing Certificate at University of Phoenix.