Now a cultural icon symbolizing working women, female empowerment and solidarity, the name "Rosie the Riveter" was part of a campaign during the beginning of World War II to recruit women into the workforce to fill in for men who had enlisted.
The percentage of women in the workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent between 1940 and 1945 as a result of the recruiting campaign. During World War II, women worked in a variety of positions. The aviation industry saw the greatest increase in female workers, with 310,000 women making up 65 percent of that industry’s workforce. The munitions industry also benefitted from high numbers of female workers.
The name "Rosie the Riveter" was first heard in 1942 in a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The famous "We Can Do It" image was painted by artist J. Howard Miller, who was contracted by the Westinghouse Company to create a series of posters for the war effort. The model for the poster is believed to be Geraldine Doyle, a 17-year-old working at a metal plant in Michigan in 1942.
There were many depictions of Rosie the Riveter during the war, one being a Norman Rockwell painting that appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. The iconic image we now know as "Rosie the Riveter" wasn't associated with the name until 1982, when women's rights advocates brought it out of the archives to encourage women in the workforce.