Celebrating ‘riveting’ female workers

Before you rest from your labors, read about the real Rosie the Riveter

With Monday, Sept. 7, being Labor Day and this year marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, we thought you’d enjoy hearing a little more about Rosie the Riveter, the World War II icon who more recently has inspired Pink, Beyoncé – and face masks.

Rosie was the subject of a 1942 song by Red Evans and John Jacob Loeb about a woman who worked on the assembly line making airplanes during the war – and thus protecting her Marine boyfriend, Charlie. The inspiration for the song was Rosalind P. Walter, who worked the night shift building the F4U Corsair fighter. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Walter, who came from a wealthy family, would go on to become a philanthropist – funding public television, among other things.

In truth, there were a lot of Rosies, like Naomi Parker, whose photograph was used in artist J. Howard Miller’s ad for the Westinghouse Co.’s “We Can Do It’ campaign (1942) to inspire women to enter the wartime workforce. And did it ever. The Rosie the Riveter meme, as we would call it, increased the number of women in the workforce by 57 percent to 20 million.

Onetime New Rochelle resident Norman Rockwell’s Rosie – for the May 29, 1943 Memorial Day edition of The Saturday Evening Post – was actually a Vermont neighbor, Mary Doyle (later Mary Doyle Keefe, and a Connecticut resident), with an assist in the pose and brawniness from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel depiction of the Prophet Isaiah. This Rosie squashes a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” – clearly not a woman to mess with.

After the war, the Rosies returned to more traditional feminine pursuits. They would not reenter the workforce in such numbers again until the feminist wave of the 1970s.

Their example, however, has not been lost. Mae Krier, a former Rosie, is applying her World War II skills and discipline to making face masks – at age 94.

So thank you, Rosies, everywhere for inspiring us to think outside the box when it comes to jobs and careers. And keep on being “riveting.”

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