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Remembering Rosie: The Woman Who Did It

February 6, 2018

It’s 2018. Women have the right to vote and contribute to the work force. We’re judges, doctors, lawyers, police officers, firefights, astronauts, chiefs, teachers, librarians, nurses, soldiers and
journalists. We can be anything we’d like to be, but looking back at less than a century ago, women were just being given a taste of the rights and freedoms that they so rightfully deserved. We have much to be thankful for, especially one woman in particular and all that she represented.

One of the most well-known personas during World War II was Rosie the Riveter. The icon was a strong, female war production worker who altered the world by encouraging women to aid in war efforts. Rosie the Riveter made many appearances in different campaigns, but the most famous was Rosie flexing her arm with “We can do it” displayed above her head. For decades, the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter was unknown. For much of the 1990s, it was believed that Geraldine Hoff Doyle was the inspiration behind Rosie the Riveter. It wasn’t until 2016 when James Kimble published a study revealing the true inspiration: Naomi Parker Fraley. (New York Times).

Rosie was in no way a depiction of Fraley as an individual, but as a symbol of what the American woman should have looked like during WWII. Rosie the Riveter wasn’t the only icon to encourage patriotism among American women during WWII, but she became one of the biggest symbols for feminism as a movement. Campaign efforts with Rosie the Riveter increased the number of women in the workforce from 27 to 37 percent ( Although the majority of women in the workforce were seen as placeholders until the men returned from the war, Rosie the Riveter encouraged women to rise to their full potential.

During WWII, women were more than just stay-at- home mothers or housewives; women worked in defense plants, as streetcar conductorettes, cooks and finance managers. Women joined branches of the United States Armed Forces such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (now known as the Women’s Army Corps), the Women Airforce Service Pilots and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services (Minnesota History Center).

No, women didn’t have combat positions during WWII, but their positions were essential for the success of the war. Women who held positions as nurses were caught amid gunfire just like any male soldier. Women were also captured as prisoners of war just like any male soldier. Women worked hard and died for the war effort. Women also freed the men from their everyday responsibilities so that they could go off and fight the war. Much of this was made possible because of encouraging campaigns like Rosie’s famed poster. It was the first time that the country worked together, making it known that national success comes from the joint effort between men and women.

Rosie the Riverter was an inspiration for millions of American women in one of the country’s darkest times. She changed how the world saw women and their capabilities which paved a road that we are able to embrace today. Fraley’s passing in January was a heartbreaking time, but the icon’s legacy will live through the impact she made throughout her life.

Women have made great progress for their rights in the past century, proving that any adversity they face eventually comes with great reward. Rosie serves as an example, a reminder, of all that we can achieve. She will forever be missed and cherished by many. As we reflect on the legend’s recent passing, let’s embrace her powerful words and remember that “we CAN do it!”

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