Today’s Wonder of the Day takes you back to the days of World War II, when the United States — and, indeed, the entire world — was consumed by the battles taking place in so many areas around the world. Although there are still wars being fought in different areas of the world today, it’s hard for most young children to understand what it was like to live through World War II.
In many ways, World War II happened during a simpler time. technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today. Life moved at a slower pace. In fact, many women stayed at home to raise children and run the household, while men would work outside the home, often in factories.
Life at home was not the same either. Not only did the families of the people serving in the military miss them, but there were huge voids to fill in many different areas of everyday life. One of the biggest voids was in American factories.
When young men left to fight in the war, many had to leave their jobs in factories. This was a huge problem, because the military relied upon many factories to produce the things needed to fight a war, including weapons, ammunition, airplanes, tanks and all sorts of other supplies.
So how was this void filled? The women of America accepted the challenge and began to work the factory jobs left open by soldiers fighting the war. For many women, this was a big deal, as it was the first time they had ever held a job outside the home.
Women working in factories soon came to be called “Rosie the riveter” because of a song of that name written in 1942 by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The inspiration for the song was Rosalind P. Walter, who worked in a factory that made the F4U Corsair fighter airplane.
The song praised these women for their tireless work to support the American war effort:
All the day long, Whether rain or shine She’s part of the assembly line. She’s making history, Working for victory Rosie the riveter
Over the course of the war, “Rosie the riveter” became a symbol of feminism and the power of women to make a difference in society. Another real woman — Rose Will Monroe — also became closely associated with the image of Rosie the riveter, when she appeared in a promotional film about the war effort that also included the popular song.
One of the most enduring images people associate with Rosie the riveter was the Westinghouse “We Can Do It!” poster created by J. Howard Miller. The poster promoted the war effort at home, and the woman shown on the poster is who many people think of when they hear “Rosie the riveter.”
After the war, many women returned to their previous roles in the home. However, many women chose to continue to work in factories. For many, the war experience had shown them a new life that they enjoyed and wanted to continue. Many historians point to Rosie the riveter as the inspiration for a new generation of women to consider careers they had never before thought were possible.