rosie the riveter

Meet the Real Rosie the Riveters!

rosie the riveter

The image of Rosie the Riveter, a proud woman flexing her muscles, has survived for generations as a cultural icon. Rosie evolved from a World War II recruitment tool to a symbol of female pride largely because she represented not just one female worker but the strength and determination of the thousands of women who stepped up to perform challenging jobs and support their country during wartime.

Rosie as a Cultural Icon

The portion of female aviation workers spiked from barely any to 65 percent during World War II. Of course, this industry needed women to meet the increased demand during the war and to replace the male workers who enlisted in the armed services. To meet this need, both a song about Rosie and images of working women helped encourage females to find employment in professions that they may never have considered before. 1

Meet Some Real-Life Examples of Rosie the Riveter

Some of the important themes of the images of Rosie the Riveter include the rise of women in trades and the way that the wartime era changed perceptions about male and female jobs. The view that there were male-only and female-only jobs had been entrenched in American culture, and it took a World War to break barriers.

Some of the “Real Rosies” are still quite active and recently shared their wartime experiences:

Dorothy McMann, now 89, traveled from rural Augusta, Virginia, to the big city of Baltimore to work as an aircraft riveter. She recalls, “It was something I never dreamed of doing, but after I learned how, I loved it.”

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Crena Anderson, 89 as well, wanted to do her part to support the war effort and to do her job well enough to keep the men who were fighting, including her husband, safe. 2

Three Modern Women Welders

As World War II wound down, men returned to their homes and trades forcing most of the women out of work making skilled trades the dominated by a male workforce. As a labor shortage is forcing industries to change, a new call from industry like welding is trying to press women back into service – so to speak.

Why should women consider welding as a career today? For one thing, modern welding tools aren’t as heavy or bulky as they were only a few decades ago. Also, some traits that help people excel at this trade include spatial skills, artistic appreciation, coordination, and patience. These qualities can be found in both men and women. 3

Today’s female welders may help inspire a new generation of women in this field:

  • Not only was Nancy Cole one of the first women to take an active role in the American Welding Society, she was elected president in 2013.
  • Educators tried to interest Charron Wynn in nursing and other more traditionally female careers, but she chose welding because she liked to work with her hands and had an interest in art.
  • Becky Lorenz had to petition her high school to admit her into the boy’s welding classes, but now she’s the owner of her own welding shop and promotes the trade to other females.

The Female Welders of the Future

Rosie may be the most enduring symbol of the female American worker’s pride. She can also remind us that women can have a place in skilled trades. The American Welding Society predicts a huge shortage of skilled welders within the next decade. Currently, women occupy less than nine percent of construction jobs in the United States, but the need to fill these vacancies underscores just one reason why women could find plenty of opportunities.

Other attractive features include a shorter welding training period and respectable pay. Women welders might find work in all sorts of different industries and could even pursue the chance to become their own boss if they want to. Women with an interest in welding should know there is a place for them.

Additional Sources:

1 – http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter
2 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/real-life-rosie-the-riveter-women-share-their-stories-and-philosophy/2014/08/10/75ccdc86-20a9-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html
3 – http://www.cnbc.com/2014/02/07/american-manufacturing-and-welding-to-women-we-want-you.html