April 7, 2011

History Lessons: Rosie the Riveter

Today I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class and came across one about Rosie the Riveter. The most famous Rosie now days is the "We Can Do It" piece. However, there was another version made before that one.

The original depiction of Rosie the Riveter was done by the famous Norman Rockwell. It was the original propaganda used in WWII in 1943. It was done for the cover of the The Saturday Evening Post.

But I'm sure that this is the one you are used to seeing, the very feminine version of Rosie. 

This is the version by Jay Howard Miller. Contrary to belief this was not drawn to inspire women to join the workforce to help with the war efforts. Miller was contracted by an ad agency to do this for Westinghouse Electric. It was only supposed to be displayed for a short period of time and only in-house. But it has definitely stood the test of time. And it wasn't just targeted towards women but men also. Pieces of propaganda like this were to 1) increase production, 2) decrease absenteeism, and 3) discourage labor movements inside the company. The upper thrust of her arm was a common motion done at the company (by both men and women) during the time and characteristic of the company at the time.

I think it's a common conception that it was all women during the time of WWII were rushing to the factories to take the place of their husbands, sons, fathers, etc. But the females that were going to take those places weren't necessarily the housewives with families to take care of. It was actually many single women trying to make money to support themselves. And I find it a bit ironic that as Candace and Jane put it in the podcast, that this image can be seen on everything, even household things that housewives at the time would use.

The biggest reason why Norman Rockwell's version of Rosie the Riveter didn't end up being the popular version is because of the copyright that is placed on it. Miller's Rosie didn't have any copyright protection and was taken up by feminist movements in the 1980's. Modern views of Rosie is that she is a symbol of female power and that women can do anything men can do.

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