Rosie the Riveter was a fictional character that became a powerful icon for American women. She initially symbolized the women who worked in factories, shipyards and munitions plants after the United States entered WWII, but eventually represented much more.
Rosie the Riveter first came to be in the form of a song, not as a work of art. The song was written in 1942 and released by Paramount Music Corporation in 1943. Many different popular artists of that time period performed the song and made it a part of the Hit Parade.
It did not take long however for “Rosie the Riveter” to take on a new meaning for American women. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, many men left the work force to join the Armed Services. This left a huge gap in the work force, especially in factories that produced supplies for the military. As a result, and with the help of advertising agencies, the United States government campaigned via posters and magazine covers, to recruit women into the work force.
Throughout the WWII era, there were many different Rosie the Riveter posters made, which featured many different Rosie characters. During the war efforts, the Norman Rockwell’s was the most well know. In 1942, another poster was created called the “We Can Do It!” poster. The woman depicted on the poster was a factory worker in Michigan, who was not called “Rosie”. In an interesting twist, the poster was only actually displayed in a factory for two weeks in 1942. It was not until the 1970’s and 1980’s that this particular poster would be associated with “Rosie the Riveter” and gained popularity.
Rosie the Riveter was not only associated with replacing men in the work force and supporting the war efforts. In years later, she became an iconic symbol for American women in their fight to gain equality.
In 1999, the United States Postal Service issued the “Women Support the War Effort” postage stamp as part of the Celebrate the Century stamp series. The “We Can Do It!” poster featuring the Rosie the Riveter image was depicted on the 33 cent stamp.