Know Your Military

Rosie the Riveter Inspired Women to Serve in World War II

March 21, 2019 | BY David Vergun

"Rosie the Riveter" was an iconic poster of a female factory worker flexing her muscle, exhorting other women to join the World War II effort with the declaration that "We Can Do It!"

Woman flexing bicep.
We Can Do It
The “We Can Do It!” poster was aimed at boosting morale among workers in the World War II factories producing war materiel.
Photo By: Illustration by J. Howard Miller
VIRIN: 190320-D-ZZ999-001

Mae Krier, 93, an original Rosie the Riveter, worked at Boeing aircraft, producing B-17s and B-29s for the war effort from 1943 to 1945 in Seattle. She is advocating Congress for getting March 21 recognized annually as a Rosie the Riveter Day of Remembrance. Saying she wants to inspire a "We Can Do It!" attitude among young girls everywhere, she also is advocating that Congress award the Rosies the Congressional Gold Medal for their service.

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Did you know Rosie's cultural impact went far beyond the poster itself?

  • The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in the 1990s featuring the image of Rosie the Riveter.
  • In 1942, Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb composed a song called "Rosie the Riveter."
  • Artist Norman Rockwell’s cover for the May 29, 1944, issue of The Saturday Evening Post magazine was an illustration of a female riveter with the name "Rosie" painted on the lunch pail.
  • Women who worked to produce tanks, ships, planes and other materiel during World War II called themselves "Rosies."

American women played important roles during World War II, both at home and in uniform. Around 5 million civilian women served in the defense industry and elsewhere in the commercial sector during World War II with the aim of freeing a man to fight.

Two women weld sitting at tables.
Working Rosie
Employees of the Glenn L. Martin Company weld aircraft parts in the 1940s at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. In line with the “Rosie the Riveter” image, women were recruited to step into jobs in production lines supporting the war so the men could fight.
Photo By: Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 190304-F-F3336-1002

Around 350,000 American women served in uniform, both at home and abroad, volunteering for the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps – later renamed the Women’s Army Corps -- the Navy Women’s Reserve, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the Army Nurses Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corps.

A group of women sitting in wheelchairs.
Rosies at Reagan
A group of Michigan-based "Rosie the Riveters" arrive at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., March 22, 2016. The women traveled as part of a special Honor Flight to honor the Rosies — women who entered the workforce during World War II as male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force.
Photo By: Cynthia Mitchell, Army Corps of Engineers
VIRIN: 160322-A-ZP796-003

Some women served near the front lines in the Army Nurse Corps, where 16 were killed as a result of direct enemy fire. Sixty-eight American service women were captured as prisoners of war in the Philippines. More than 1,600 nurses were decorated for bravery under fire and meritorious service, and 565 WACs in the Pacific Theater won combat decorations. Nurses were in Normandy four days after the invasion began.