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Rosie the Riveter

By September 11, 2020No Comments

An American Icon that moved the World 

Rosie the Riveter was a fictional illustrated character that later became an American cultural icon

As an Allegory, the picture could be interpreted and represented with several hidden messages/meanings that inspired and engaged a country to be united in work, purpose, and direction.  Rosie became a leader of a movement that would unite a country, defeat one of the greatest evils of all time, and she became a symbol of American diversity. Her message was simple, we are Americans and we can do it. Something we could surely use more of today.   

During World War II, J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Electric to create a series of posters (42 of them). The intent of the posters was to raise worker morale, reduce absenteeism, to direct workers’ questions to management, and to lower the likelihood of labor unrest.  The poster was displayed only to Westinghouse employees in the Midwest during a two-week period in February 1943, then it disappeared for nearly four decades. During the war, the name “Rosie” was not associated with the image, and the purpose of the poster was not to recruit women workers but to be motivational to all workers and both sexes.

Over time the power of the image would supersede the factory break room for which it was intended.   Although we did not know her name yet, she was about to speak to the world.

Miller is thought to have based his “We Can Do It!” poster on a wire service photograph taken of a young female war worker. Several women have been tied to the inspiration of the poster including Michigan war worker Geraldine Hoff (later Doyle) and Naomi Parker (later Fraley).

Most people believe that Naomi Parker Fraley is the real-life inspiration for Rosie the Riveter.  Seen here in a black and white photo with her iconic red Polka Dot head wrap and her blue jumpsuit.    

Norman Rockwell created a version later adding the name “Rosie” on a lunch box and a rivet gun across her lap.     

The “We Can Do It” poster was rediscovered in the early 1980s and widely reproduced in many forms, often called “We Can Do It!” but also called “Rosie the Riveter” after the iconic figure of a strong female war production worker.

The “We Can Do It!” image was also used to promote female equality and employment in the 1980s.  The image made the cover of the Smithsonian magazine in 1994 and was fashioned into a US first-class mail stamp in 1999. The poster is one of the ten most-requested images at the National Archives.

Today we see a deeper and broader message in this iconic image. Americans have the unique ability to adapt and come together in unity to combat a common enemy. Americans are women, men, they are white, they are black, they are young and old and we come in all shapes and sizes. 

When solutions are needed in America they sometimes come from the least likely of candidates. In this case, young women were making airplanes, tanks, and weapons to support the men that were fighting Germany, Japan, and Italy.

Rosie represents America. Beautiful, Diverse, Strong, and willing to get into the fight. When pushed America has tenacity. resolve. and vengeance like no other. We are unsure if the quote is accurate but some say that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the Japanese navy, who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor wrote in his diary this, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

If this was written it was surely accurate.

We are diverse and yet at our central core, we are American. Rosie was against Communism and Nazism. She was against everything that Hitler stood for. I think Rosie represents what is truly great about America and she stands for a sprit that never surrenders, never gives up, and is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes.   

With her one eyebrow raised she seems to say, “Do you want some of this”!

We need to seize a “We can do it” attitude and be untied in work, purpose, and direction. It is time to see ourselves as Americans first and fight our common enemy, not ourselves.

We have many “Rosies” now changing the world. Working single parents, mentors leading youth, and people helping the elderly.

Detroit, like many manufacturing cities across the United States, is poised to build, to be unified, and to fight a real common enemy. Today we have a World War that we are fighting. It has names like COVID-19, global economy, terrorism, bad politics, and significant violence among ourselves.

It is time for America to be a united, United States again. Let love and peace reign over injustice and tyranny. Let us follow Rosie. She says, “We Can Do It” and so we shall.


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