Insight on Iconic Image

Rosie the Riveter marked new era for women in the workforce
Rosie the Riveter Poster
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The woman who inspired the iconic Rosie the Riveter drawing has died, but her enduring image symbolizes a pivotal moment for women in the workforce, according to ILR School labor historian Professor Ileen DeVault.

Rosie’s “We Can Do It!” poster “really did capture the idea that women can, in fact, do any job,” DeVault said in an interview today. “We are all indebted to her.”

Naomi Parker Fraley, whose photograph at a factory lathe was the basis for the poster, died at age 96 on Saturday in Longview, Washington.

Flexing her bicep with a fierce look of determination, Rosie the Riveter was captured on posters that helped tell the story of American women moving from low-wage employment into better paying jobs vacated by men who were serving in the armed forced during World War II.

Rosie symbolized the new status of women at work, and helped the government popularize the idea of women working in manufacturing jobs.

Rosie, in a blue work shirt and a red polka-dotted bandana, continues to resonate today. The image is emblazoned on items such as magnets, T-shirts and mugs, of which DeVault has two.

To learn more about how the real-life Rose the Riveter was identified by a dogged professor, see this CNN story.