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Rosie the Riveter

We Can Do ItAt the start of World War II women’s contribution to the work place was limited at best. There were certain positions women could respectably hold, such as stenographer, secretary, or schoolteacher, but never had women considered going to work in the factories. But as the war progressed, and the need for wartime production increased, the demand that women join the workforce became a focus. The American Ad Council, in an attempt to promote working women in a positive light, came up with the "Rosie the Riveter" campaign. Rosie the Riveter was a brawny woman dressed in blue work overalls, who proudly stated “We Can Do It.” The campaign became wildly successful. In December 1941 almost 13 million women were at work. By February 1943 that number rose to 15 million. Women across the nation began putting down the dust cloths, and picking up drills, going to work and every wartime production factory in America.

The origin of Rosie the Riveter is at times uncertain, but it would appear the name first appeared in a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb in 1942. In  1943 Norman Rockwell gave Rosie a body on the front of the Saturday Evening Post. Rosie was shown as a large woman sitting with riveting equipment in her lap, a sandwich in her hand, and lipstick on. The image became hugely popular, and soon prompted numerous versions of Rosie to be created. Meanwhile several real life “Rosies” began springing up across the country. Women would be featured in newspapers and magazines for their contributions to the war effort.

Kansas was noWomen! You are needed in the National Fire Servicet exempt from this media barrage. Mrs. Hopkins, a life time Kansas resident, and proud mother, was featured in a Kansas paper for her efforts. Hopkins was a farm wife who had originally began working at the Boeing plant with her husband. She was quickly assigned to specialized work as a cable rigger, a job usually requiring weeks of training, which she picked up in a few days. While her husband was forced to return home to the farm, Mrs. Hopkins continued on at the plant 6 days a week for 80 cents an hour. Women only made 60% of what men did during this time. Though the newspaper spoke praisingly of Hopkins, she downplayed her own effort, saying, “There are hundreds of families like ours, I am sure. If farm women do not help in these defense plants where are the needed workers to come from? It all seems a simple and natural effort of a war era and we are proud to help.”

Mrs. Hopkins was only one of many Kansas women who chose to join the work force. The Rosie the Riveter ad campaign was considered one of the most successful within the nation, and resulted in the employment of millions of women in America.

Entry: Rosie the Riveter

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2011

Date Modified: July 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.