During WWII when men left for war, American women filled a labor shortage, and filled jobs traditionally held by men. The iconic image of Rosie the Riveter was born, a strong capable woman, able to swing a hammer just like a man. Rosie the Riveter, and the countless women who came after her, show that women are capable of anything they set their minds to. The Women Can Build campaign aims to bring awareness to the hardworking and capable women who are building America’s 21st century transportation.
Photographs by Deanne Fitzmaurice
Curated by Fiona Gardner
Producers: Madeline Janis and Rachele Huennekens
Historical photographs courtesy Library of Congress
While manufacturing and transportation have advanced considerably in the 75 years since Rosie the Riveter made history, women workers in the American transit manufacturing industry have been on the decline. According to new research by University Southern California Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (USC PERE), 87% of the workforce in the American transit manufacturing industry is male.
The Jobs to Move America coalition, LAANE and the Women Can Build exhibition aim to change that, by bringing awareness to the hardworking and capable women who are building America’s 21st century transportation.
The contemporary “Rosies” in the show work for global transit equipment manufacturing companies in their U.S factories, including Siemens, New Flyer Industries, Nippon Sharyo, Kinkisharyo, and others. These photographs are the results of a collaboration between Deanne Fitzmaurice, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and co-producers Madeline Janis and Rachele Huennekens. Despite the odds, Women Can Build shows the strength, dignity and leadership of women in manufacturing, from welders to electricians and beyond.
“Women Can Build says it all: the powerful, beautiful women working in these factories can do anything they set their minds to,” said Madeline Janis, Director of the Jobs to Move America coalition. “We hope to inspire more young girls to work in heavy manufacturing, and to encourage the major employers in transit equipment manufacturing to provide more good jobs and equal opportunity to women in these factories.”
Deanne was inspired by the photographs in The Library of Congress. Her photographs employ the dramatic lighting, bold color, and props such as work tools of the original “Rosie” photos while making striking contemporary photos. Deanne’s portraits elevate the everyday reality of labor and celebrate it.
Evoking the spirit of Rosie the Riveter in a modern context, the photographs demonstrate that women can build— America’s transit system and anything they set their minds.