Historic Rosies

Rosie the Riveter is the female icon of World War II. She represents every American female manufacturing worker. She lives large in our collective subconscious, as a symbol of female strength and empowerment.

With the U.S entry into World War II, women found themselves filling jobs that had traditionally been held by men. Men were going to war, and industries were switching to war production. Industries decided that they were willing to fill the labor gap with women.

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An A-20 bomber being riveted by a woman worker at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant at Long Beach, Calif. Un bombardero A-20 está remachada por una trabajadora mujer en la planta de Douglas Aircraft Company en Long Beach, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939
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Operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, Inc., [a] woman is working in the control surface department assembling a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane, Inglewood, California. Operando un taladro de mano en el North American Aviation, Inc., una mujer trabaja en el departamento de montaje de superficie de control una sección del borde de ataque del estabilizador horizontal de un avión, Inglewood, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939
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Agnes Cliemka, checking of gasoline hose of gasoline trailers before being turned over the Air Force at Heil and Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Agnes Cliemka, comprobación de la manguera de la gasolina de los remolques de gasolina antes de ser entregado a la Fuerza Aérea en Heil and Co., de Milwaukee, Wisconsin. -- Howard R Hollem 1939

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Woman aircraft worker, checking electrical assemblies,Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, California. Mujer trabajadora de aviones, comprobando montajes eléctricos, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, California. -- David Bransby 1939

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Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American [Aviation, Inc.] in Inglewood, California. Parte de la cubierta de uno de los motores de un bombardero B-25 se monta en la sección de máquinas de América del Norte [Aviation, Inc.] en Inglewood, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939
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Switch boxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers are assembled at North American [Aviation, Inc.] in Inglewood, California. Cajas de interruptores en los servidores de seguridad de los B-25 bombarderos se ensamblan en América del Norte [Aviation, Inc.] en Inglewood, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939

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Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee. Operar un taladro de mano en Vultee-Nashville, la mujer está trabajando en una bombardero en picado, “Venganza”, en Tennessee. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939

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Mary Louise Stepan is working on transport parts in the hand mill, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. Mary Louise Stepan está trabajando en las piezas de transporte en el molino de mano, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. -- Howard R Hollem 1939
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Mrs. Angeline Kwint checking the tires of trailers at the Heil Company, U.S. Army Air Corps, Milwaukee. Sra Angeline Kwint comprobar los neumáticos de los remolques en la Compañía Heil, US Army Air Corps, de Milwaukee. -- Howard R Hollem 1939
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Female lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. Tornero Mujer mecanizando las piezas para aviones de transporte en la planta de Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas. -- Howard R Hollem 1939
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Two women workers are shown capping and inspecting tubing which goes into the manufacture of the “Vengeance” (A-31) dive bomber made at Vultee’s Nashville division, Tennessee. Dos mujeres trabajadoras se muestran taponado y la inspección de la tubería que entra en la fabricación de la “Venganza,”; (A-31) bombardero en picado hecho en la división de Nashville Vultee, Tennessee. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939
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Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee. Operar un taladro de mano en Vultee-Nashville, la mujer está trabajando en una bombardero en picado, “Venganza”, en Tennessee. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939

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A woman riveting machine operator at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant joins sections of wing ribs to reinforce the inner wing assemblies of B-17F heavy bombers, Long Beach, California. Una mujer operadorada de la máquina de remachar en la planta de Douglas Aircraft Company se une a las secciones de las costillas de las alas para reforzar las asambleas de las alas interiores de B-17F bombarderos pesados, Long Beach, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939

 

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Operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, Inc., [a] woman is working in the control surface department assembling a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane, Inglewood, California. Operando un taladro de mano en el North American Aviation, Inc., una mujer trabaja en el departamento de montaje de superficie de control una sección del borde de ataque del estabilizador horizontal de un avión, Inglewood, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939
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Mrs. Marcella Hart and Mrs. Viola Sievers of the Chicago and North Western Railroad cleaning one of the giant “H” class locomotives, Clinton, Iowa. La señora Marcella Hart y la señora Viola Sievers del Chicago y North Western ferrocarril limpiando una de las “H” locomotoras gigantes de clase, Clinton, Iowa. -- Jack Delano 1939

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A young woman employee of North American Aviation, Incorporated, working over the landing gear mechanism of a P-51 fighter plane, Inglewood, California. Una mujer joven empleada de la aviación norteamericana, Incorporated, trabajando sobre el mecanismo del tren de aterrizaje de un avión de combate P-51, Inglewood, California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939

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Woman working on an airplane motor at North American Aviation, Inc., plant in California. Mujer que trabaja en un motor del avión en el North American Aviation, Inc., planta en California. -- Alfred T. Palmer 1939
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Mrs. Dorothy Lucke, employed as a wiper at the roundhouse,C. & N.W. R.R.,Clinton, Iowa. La señora Dorothy Lucke, empleado como limpiador en la casa de máquinas, C. & NWRR. -- Jack Delano 1939

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Mrs. Irene Bracker, employed as a wiper at the roundhouse,C. & N.W. R.R.,Clinton, Iowa. La señora Irene Bracker, empleado como limpiador en la casa de máquinas, C. & NWRR, Clinton, Iowa. -- Jack Delano 1939

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Cloe Weaver learning to operate the turntable. She is employed as a helper at the roundhouse, C. & N.W. R.R. Clinton, Iowa. Cloe Weaver aprendiendo como operar el plato giratorio. Ella trabaja como empleada en la casa de máquinas, C. & NWRR Clinton, Iowa. -- Jack Delano 1939

 

The number of women in manufacturing jobs rose dramatically over the course of the war years, with about six million women entering the workforce for the first time. Many of women were married, white, middle class, and hadn’t been encouraged to work outside the home before. There were also women of color who worked in wartime manufacturing, although they were excluded from many jobs and discriminated against. It is also worth noting that poor women had worked outside the home before the war.

Many of the American women who inspired Rosie the Riveter developed a sense of themselves as workers outside of the home, joined labor unions, and saw pay increases. Thus, the war years changed the relationship between marriage and work for middle class women. The number of women working outside the home never again returned to pre war levels.

“Rosie came in all races, not just Caucasian, That time was especially a great opportunity for them. But there was discrimination. I show that in the film. Not all black women got those jobs. Black women got paid less. This all happened. There was not total equality, that’s for sure.” -- Connie Feld, Director,“The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter.” (www.clarityfilms.org/rosie)

“You came out to California, put on your pants, and took your lunch pail to a man’s job. This was the beginning of women’s feeling that they could do something more. The women worked in pairs. I was the riveter and this big, strong, white girl from a cotton farm in Arkansas worked as the bucker. The riveter used a gun to shoot rivets through the metal and fasten it together. The bucker used a bucking bar on the other side of the metal to smooth out the rivets. Bucking was harder than shooting rivets; it required more muscle. Riveting required more skill.” -- Sybil Lewis, an African-American riveter for Lockheed Aircraft in Los Angeles.

The historic “Rosie the Riveter” photographs in this exhibit are from the Library of Congress Archive. Alfred T. Palmer, Howard R Hollem, David Bransby, Jack Delano and other photographers like them were hired during the war years to promote and document the war effort. The color archive of “Rosie The Riveters” seem a bit more staged -- somewhere between documentary and setup. The black and white photographs from the era are far  more gritty. For this show, we chose the color photographs since they are closer to the “Rosie” icon, and also feel more contemporary. While there is only one African American woman in the color photograph archive, there are others among the black and white photographs in The Library of Congress.

 

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