The Story Behind the Art-Rosie the Riveter

As I work on my 1940's piece in my "100 Years of Fashion" series, my research finds how much World War II influenced fashion. Fabric was rationed, so styles were simple, utilitarian, and practical. Hems moved up because no one wanted to waste material. In the 1940's women began to wear suits, shoulder pads, and trousers. These masculine styles reflected the time when women began working in factories to support the war effort and they had to dress in a way that showed  power, capability, and feminism all at the same time. No easy feat! All this research led me to think of the iconic "Rosie the Riveter" poster, you know,  the "We Can Do It"  one! 

The "We Can Do It" motivational propaganda poster was mistakenly called "Rosie the Riveter" when rediscovered in the 1980's

The first reference of "Rosie the Riveter" was in a song written in 1942. Listen here. One realizes how much music has changed! 

After the release of the song, the famous Illustrator, Norman Rockwell, painted his version of "Rosie" for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, Memorial Day Edition in 1943. Here she is depicted as a brawny woman taking her lunch break, rivet gun in her lap. Beneath her penny loafer shoes is a copy of Hitler's, Mein Kampf. Her name is on her lunch box. Rockwell based his "Rosie the Riveter" on Michelangelo's 1509 painting, Prophet Isaiah,  on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Italy. 

Just a side note, the original painting of Rockwell's "Rosie" sold in 2002 for a whopping five million at Sotheby's 

So what's the story on the poster we thought was the "Rosie the Riveter"?

In 1942, Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company's War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters for the war effort. The purpose of the posters was to be motivational, aimed at both men and women employed at the company. The "We Can Do It" poster was displayed in the company's Midwest office for a period of two weeks in 1943 and then it disappeared. The poster was never associated with the "Rosie the Riveter" image during the war effort. In the early 1980's the poster was rediscovered, became famous, and was mistakenly identified as "Rosie." 

The release of my "100 Years of Fashion" series will be in late October. I can't wait to share it with all of you! Thanks for Reading!