During World War II, Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon. She represented the women working in factories and shipyards at the time, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. Due to many of the working men being shipped off to fight in the war, women were encouraged to replace them. Nearly 19 million women held jobs during the war. Many of them already held low paying jobs. Only 3 million new women joined the work force during the war years. A lot of them shared apartments and housing to save on money, space, and food, and worked in shifts to babysit each others’ children. Women of all colors or nationalities worked side-by-side in these factories.
In 1944, government sponsored propaganda encouraged women to return to their more traditional lives back in the home, but many were reluctant. Several returned to their lower paying jobs, but many still stayed in the factories.
The term Rosie the Riveter first appeared in 1942 in a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. It was recorded by many different artists, including the big band artist Kay Kyser.
Because of women accepting the challenges of the workforce, they continued to make strong advances towards equal rights. Rosie inspired a social movement that increased the number of working women by 57%. Thanks to Rosie’s inspiration, they proved to themselves and the country that they could do a man’s job. They succeeded in breaking down social barriers.
In 1942, 20-year-old Naomi Parker was working in a machine shop when a photographer snapped a shot of her on the job. She became the icon of Rosie the Riveter.