Rose the Riveter, the leader of the campaign that focused on the recruitment of female workers into defense industries during WWII, is arguably the most iconic figure for working women. Through this campaign by Rosie the Riveter, an unprecedented number of American women joined the workforce during the period of World War II. At this time, several men had been enlisted into the war, and this had resulted in gaping holes in the American industrial labor force. The percentage of female representation in the U.S. workforce rose to 37 percent from 27 percent between the years 1940 and 1945 (Kelley, 2015). This growth in women representation was all courtesy of Rose the Riveter, a fictional character who was used by the U.S. government during this period to encourage the middle-class American women to join the workforce. While Rose the Riveter has been severally associated with the modern-day women's movement, this icon was not initially aimed at enhancing or promoting change in the role of women in the workplace and the society during the Second World War. Rather this icon was aimed at being a representation of the ideal female worker and deal with the issue of an industrial labor shortage that had resulted from the war ("Rosie the Riveter - Ohio History Central", 2019) .
The first appearance of Rosie the Riveter was in a song by The Four Vagabonds , where she was described as a hardworking woman who was always striving for victory and making history (Myers & Piehler, 2018). Soon after this song, Norman Rockwell went ahead to make a rendering of Rosie, which ended up on the cover page of The Saturday Evening Post issue on 29 th May 1943. The initial portrayal was unglamorous and brawny, and it was followed by another more colorful and glamorous version that portrayed Rosie having all feminine features wearing a red bandanna with a speech balloon bearing the phrase " We can do it!” above her. This new version became viral and even the U.S. War Production Coordinating Committee commissioned it to be the portrayal associated with the phrase Rosie the Riveter. This image served as a reflection of the key contribution of women during WWII. Her masculinity served the purpose of sensitizing the people during the period of war about the issue of gender roles. At the same time, Rosie exuded some extent of femininity with her womanly figure and red lipstick to show that women can double up any role with uttermost grace.
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Rosie the Riveter was used as a propaganda tool during the Second World War during the campaign, which was themed on patriotic duty, high earnings, spousal pride, and work glamour. Each of these themes served as a rationale describing why women needed to work during wartime. At that time, feminists wanted an image that was a visual reflection of this time of woman in an appealing manner that was not essentially pro-war. Rosie the Riveter was the perfect reflection of this independent woman who would do anything, and the slogan “ We can do it!” was the further push that women needed at this time. Obviously, the women were forced to leave their positions in the workforce after the war came to an end, and Rosie was temporarily forgotten between the years 1946 and 1964. However, later in the 1980s, she came back to life at a time when feminists were in search of images that would be used to represent female empowerment ("Rosie the Riveter", 2019) .
Over the years, the significance of Rosie the Riveter has been increasing, and it has now evolved to exceed her initial purpose of being a recruitment aid for women into the labor force during WWII. Today, Rosie the Riveter is considered a cultural icon, and it is used by feminist as a reflection of the ‘ideal' woman in society. It is used as a heroic reflection of the fact that women can do and become anything and that it is all possible. The popularity of Rosie the Riveter grew so massively. Hillary Clinton used the image during her presidential campaign, Beyoncé posted it on Instagram, and several consumer goods such as dishes and coffee mugs and women group logos bear an image of Rosie. All of these are used with the goal of depicting female empowerment.
It is ironic that the image of Rosie the Riveter has become so popular over the years and it has greatly enhanced the position of women in the society yet her creators had only aimed at using her as a reflection of a temporarily displaced woman who had left the house to assist during war (Lowen, 2019) . Rosie did all that she did during the war with the hope of bringing the boys back home from overseas so that she could get back to her role of being a housewife and mother. While this was the case and majority of women left the workplace after the war was over, the impact of Rosie the Riveter did not die off, and today she is considered the symbol of the power of a woman.
Kelley, P. (2015). Documents that Changed the World: ‘Rosie the Riveter’ poster, 1943. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/news/2015/02/02/documents-that-changed-the-world-rosie-the-riveter-poster-1943/
Lowen, L. (2019). Why Rosie the Riveter Is So Iconic . Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-rosie-the-riveter-3534386
Myers, S., & Piehler, G. (2018). How the famous ‘Rosie the Riveter’ poster became a symbol of female empowerment. Retrieved from https://qz.com/work/1292626/how-the-famous-rosie-the-riveter-poster-became-a-symbol-of-female-empowerment/
Rosie the Riveter. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1656.html
Rosie the Riveter - Ohio History Central. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Rosie_the_Riveter