While the vast majority of Americans today have no memory of World War II, many have heard the name “Rosie the Riveter,” and probably most are aware of the iconic image of the woman in a polka dot bandana flexing her bicep.
But did you know that poster wasn’t the most famous image of Rosie at the time?
“Rosie the Riveter” was first used in 1942 in a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song became a national hit, and in 1944, inspired a movie by the same name.
The character “Rosie the Riveter” became a cultural icon of World War II, as she represented the thousands of women who went to work in factories and shipyards, helping to produce munitions and other war supplies.
Between 1940 and 1945, women in the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women was working outside the home.
The impact of women was greatest in the aviation industry where, in 1943, they represented 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce, compared to just 1 percent in the years prior to the war.
The U.S. government used images of the Rosie character to aid in recruiting women to aid in the war effort, and the bandanna-wearing woman showed up in newspapers, posters, photographs, and articles.
However, she was not actually named in that most iconic poster.
In 1942, an artist named J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters. One of the posters was the famous “We Can Do It” image and was intended to help motivate Westinghouse employees. It was displayed for only a two-week period in February 1943.
It’s thought Miller was inspired by a photo he saw of Naomi Parker Fraley, who was pictured working in the machine shop at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California.
At the time, the most famous image of “Rosie the Riveter” was an illustration created by Norman Rockwell for the May 29, 1943 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. In this image, Rosie is portrayed casually eating a sandwich with a flag in the background and a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” under her feet.
It wasn’t until decades later that Miller’s “We Can Do It” poster re-surfaced.
Unlike Rockwell’s work, it wasn’t under copyright, and by the early 1980’s it began to be used by women in various fields as a symbol of empowerment.
Hillary Clinton used the imagery for her 2008 campaign.
Pink dressed as Rosie in her “Raise Your Glass” video.
And Beyoncé posted a picture of herself on Instagram in the iconic bandana.
Now Nine Line is paying homage to all the working women of America, all the “Rosies” today for whom no task is too large and no problem is too impossible to overcome.
Nine Line is an American Clothing Company with American made Apparel and Accessories- Veteran Owned and Operated