In 1929 the American
economy plummeted leading to an era now referred to as the Great Depression, an
event that would come to impact many across the world (Bordo, Goldin, & White, 2007). As a result of the
crash, large numbers of factories and business closed their doors, resulting in
increased unemployment in the male population (Bordo et al, 2007). Moreover,
the FDR administration created the ‘New Deal’ in order to reconstruct the
economy, paving the way for a new socioeconomic system. (Digital Public Library of America, N/A) The ‘New Deal’
consisted of the three R’s: Relief, Recovery and Reform (Digital Public Library of
America, N/A).
‘Relief’ in this instance, refers to the prompt action aimed at stopping the
deterioration of the U.S. economy; ‘Recovery’ referred to the programs that
were made by the administration to renew consumer demand; while ‘Reform’ signified
the more permanent and future oriented programs that were created in order to
avoid another economic catastrophe, and furthermore, to assure the nation that
the economy was only getting better from then on. (Digital Public Library of America, N/A).

This reform
created numerous jobs, primarily in industries dominated by men, with only 10%
of these positions accessible for women. (English, 2015)

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Subsequently, in 1939,
right when the American economy was beginning to stabilize, a military conflict
begun in Europe. This developed into the beginning of Second World War, taking
place until 1945. With a desire to be perceived as neutral, America was initially
reluctant to enter the war. (Reynolds, 2002) In 1941
however, the nation’s position was effectively decided for them, when Japan
bombed Pearl Harbor and forced America’s entry to the war (Reynolds, 2002).

 

Over 10 million
men were sent to war that year due to conscription, and approximately 6 million
other men and women volunteered, mainly in the Army Air Corps, the navy, and
the Marines (Chambers, 1999). This resulted in a substantial number of jobs being
left vacant. (English, 2015) It was this
development that led to the construction of a now famous wartime icon, namely,
Rosie the Riveter. (English, 2015) Since her
portrayal in 1942 by J. Howard Miller, Rosie has come to symbolize for some the changing
position women in America inhabited during and post-World War two, while for others she
represents a manufactured cultural object used to stimulate support for the
nation’s war efforts (references need here probably 2).
Regardless of contemporary opinion, undeniable is the fact that Rosie the
Riveter has continued to
exert a large degree of cultural significance and debate has persisted
as to her importance both in the past and in modern times (references needed here probably 3 or 4).

 

In an effort to
keep the economic momentum, the government created Rosie the Riveter as a
fictional character through their ‘War
Production Coordinating Committee’ propaganda campaign (need reference for that); a strong looking woman who
could encourage other women to take over the men’s position in the domestic work
force, with her now famous catch phrase, “We Can Do It!”.

Include
the image here

 The women were an unexploited demography. (Wallace, 2011) – Up until
this point, the female work force was severely underutilized and therefore this
coordinated government effort represented a shift in economic and labor
conditions and policy (find reference about rosie and
the economy here).

 

The positions now
vacant were often not considered as being appropriate for women at the time. For
context, this was a period where many saw it as socially unacceptable for women
to wear pants or smoke on the street (need reference
for that). These were predominately jobs in man-dominated industries, such
as weaponry, automotive and aviation manufacturing, whereas women in this
period were usually seen working in industries such as retail, administrative,
cleaning and childcare (need references). Despite
the poster of Rosie working as the government intended, only 6 million women
out of the 18 million strong female workforce in 1942-45 were new (need reference). This illustrates that the women were
already working before the war, or alternatively, they returned to the work
force after losing their job as a result of the Great Depression.

 

Rosie was not however,
the only propaganda ‘product’ of her time. The American public were being overwhelmed
with cultural outputs like the war songs of George M. Cohan; a song made in
1917 (first world war), but started to be played and getting popular again
during second world war, with the aim of getting men to sign up for military (need reference). Likewise, a Rosie the Riveter song was
created, in which the lyrics tell a story about a woman called Rosie who is
doing her patriotic duty to help the nation, ‘making history and working for
victory’ (need reference).

 

The government at
the time aimed to create an image of a feminine woman who was going to get a
job at a factory for the sake of freedom (English, 2015). Not because she
wanted to but rather, because it what the nation required of her (English, 2015). When the war ended,
it was expected that the women would return to their previous positions,
however this was not always the case (Wallace, 2011). The government
expected the women to go home to their husbands who had returned from war, and continue
be the then stereotypical woman; feminine, charming, achieves all duties such
as cooking and childcare with the utmost elegance (Honey, 1985). While some women
returned to life as a housewife and other more ‘female appropriate’ jobs,
others stayed at the factories; an unanticipated development for the FDR
administration (Pitogo, 2014).

Incase a woman did
not voluntarily quit her job when the men returned after war, often she would
get fired or repeatedly humiliated until she would quit (English, 2015).

‘The Feminine
Mystique’, a book written by Betty Friedan in 1963, considered to be the period
of second-wave feminism that starting earlier that decade, wrote about feminism
in America (reference book properly here). Initially,
Friedan did not intend to write a whole book, but due to magazines refusing to
publish her articles, she was left with no other options. Friedan mentions in
her book how magazines wrote short stories about how the women should be
looking forward to being ‘just a housewife again’ and they give them women advise on how to handle the ‘men’s
work’ (English, 2015). This is an example of the agenda
of the propaganda campaign with the Rosie poster. Effectively, they
needed the women until the men came back. This concurrently elucidates the levels
of equality in U.S. society at the time. The following quote from Friedan’s
book provides an articulate on how women were seen at the time; ‘Fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for
American women after 1949—the housewife-mother.” (English, 2015)

Friedan’s book became
one of the bestselling nonfiction books of that year, and challenged the
picture of women and feminism (English, 2015). Important to
reflect on here, is the idea that, social movements and the symbolic importance
of certain cultural icons (in this instance Rosie) are often difficult to grasp
in their entirety at their time of happening. Rather, what is often required,
are decades of reflection to enable more contemporary and contextualized
understandings of historical events. It is at this point, that analysis of more
current reflections of Rosie’s importance will take place.

 

Today the general
view of Rosie the Riveter is that she is a cultural icon that symbolizes the
changing face of feminism. (Pitogo, 2014) It is claimed
that Rosie the Riveter inspired a feminist movement in the 1970s; the new
female workers organized alliances in order to fight for improvements
concerning payment and the working conditions. (Pitogo, 2014) Accidents at the workplaces were
very common as a result of the women not being given any appropriate safety
equipment. (Pitogo, 2014) The pay rate
differed a lot, depending on race and gender. White males would be paid the
most while if you were a black woman, you would be paid the least. (Wallace, 2011) – be clear here what period you are referring to – always try
to draw parrellels between the periods to show relevance

 

Centuries have
passed since Rosie The Riveter was created but somehow, she kept symbolizing feminism
and still used in feminism iconicism (Pitogo, 2014).

Despite the war
being long over, the 1970-80s feminist movements used Rosie the Riveter (Wallace, 2011) and implemented the
catchphrase “We Can Do It!”, and later on in the 1990s (third-wave feminism),
began the merchandising of Rosie The Riveter. (Pitogo, 2014). Again, her
continued employment further highlights her ongoing relevance, despite her
contested appropriateness and actual meaning.

 

Even in the 21st
Century, Rosie the Riveter still appears. One of the newer appearances was when
Beyoncé, a well-known African-American pop-artist posted a picture of herself
dress up as Rosie the Riveter on Instagram in 2014 (Winson, 2014)

Include
image her of Beyonce

 Beyoncé has a reputation for being a feminist;
speaking and fighting for the female character through her songs (Winson, 2014). Some have
questioned however, just how feminist this act is. There was a lot of debate
after the posting of the picture, positive and negative (needs references). While some people worshiped her for
being the 21st centuries’ new feminist icon, others criticized her
for not understanding the real meaning behind Rosie (Winson, 2014), with some saying “insert direct quote here that shows why someone thinks she’s
stupid” (reference that quote). Overall, the criticism rested on Beyoncé’s
re-purposing of the image of Rosie as a front figure of women’s rights,
overlooking the original intent of her creation (English, 2015). One of the reasons
given was how the poster of Rosie hung on walls of the factories where the new
female workers had taken over the men’s position (needs
reference). This was done in order to keep the status quo. Keeping the status quo is not a
feminist move, which ruins the image of Rosie being a symbol of feminism.
It therefore ignores the bad impact the war and its propaganda had on women’s
rights (Winson, 2014).

An example comes
from Rebecca Winson, a columnist for The Guardian who expressed her
disagreement with people’s worshipping of Beyoncé. Winson argued that while it
might be a ‘cool picture’ that was taken of Beyoncé it nonetheless does not
immediately entitled her to be consider the leading feminist icon of our times
(Winson, 2014).

 

The fact that
during the WW1, women were paid less than the males, and that they were
expected to return to their lives as a housewife after the war is in reality
not very feminist.1

 

a
bitter edge to it, when viewed in retrospect. 

 Used, betrayed, and lied to.

 

almost
seven decades later, all is not sunshine and roses. Just this past week, for
example, we had a Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia arguing that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment does
not apply to women. Clearly, we still have a distance to go, in terms of protecting
and respecting women’s equality and access to economic opportunity.  

But even with all the
advances made by women in the workforce, the number of women doing the kind of
work Rosie the Riveter represented remains quite small.

 

Women
make up significant percentages of many white-collar fields that were
male-dominated half a century ago, from advertising and middle-management to
medicine and law