According to Rosie the Riveter history, the War Production Coordinating Committee of Westinghouse Company commissioned J Howard Miller to come up with a series of promotional posters for the US war effort. The famous “We Can Do It!” poster became prototype for Rosie the Riveter.
Norman Rockwell, the famous 20th century painter, illustrator, and author, had surely heard the Rosie the Riveter song before painting the iconic woman on the 29 May 1943 issue of Saturday Evening Post. Rosie posed like prophet Isaiah, as depicted in the famous Michelangelo fresco at Sistine Chapel. In Rockwell’s painting, Rosie is eating a sandwich while resting her foot on a copy of Mein Kampf, the autobiography of German dictator Adolf Hitler. A lunchbox and a riveting gun are placed on her lap.
The model for Rockwell’s artwork was no petite riveter. She was actually a 110-pound petite 19-year old telephone operator from Arlington in Vermont. Her name was Mary Doyle Keefe. Rockwell later called up Keefe and apologized for making her look large. Though Rosie the Riveter was first depicted by Rockwell, she’s more widely recognized by Miller’s image.
In 1942, 17-year old Geraldine Doyle, spent around two weeks working at a metal factory in Detroit. Doyle quit her job to become a cellist when she learnt that working in the metal factory may permanently damage her hands. Four decades later, Doyle became an enduring icon of the war, as well as the poster girl of feminism.
Women during Rosie the Riveter era also commanded American military aircrafts, under the collective group named Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). The women in this fleet had already got their pilot license earlier and became the first women to fly such planes. Though not involved in combat, they transported cargo and participated in simulations and mock target missions. They completed over 60 million flight miles and freed thousands of male pilots from active duty.
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