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The iconic illustration of the woman in the red polka dot bandana is recognizable to many as “Rosie the Riveter,” symbolizing the grit and determination of the women who helped support the war effort in the 1940’s.

But most people under the age of 50 don’t know the character of Rosie was actually first mentioned in a popular song years before the image appeared.

And the song’s inspiration was Rosalind Palmer Walters, who worked on an assembly line during World War II, and later went on to become one of the largest benefactors of public television. She died this week in New York at the age of 95.

Walters grew up on her family’s sprawling estate in Connecticut and attended the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Conn., one of the first college prep boarding schools for upper-class women.

But rather than go on to college, Walters joined millions of other women who were helping the home front war effort to build munitions, warships and aircraft.

At 19, Rosalind Walters, became an assembly line worker at the Vought Aircraft Company in Stratford, Conn., driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes during the night shift.

A newspaper article about her at the time inspired a song called “Rosie The Riveter” with a catchy “brrrrr” lyric:

All the day long whether rain or shine
she’s a part of the assembly line
She’s making history,
working for victory —
Rosie, brrrrr, the Riveter
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do, more than a male can do —
Rosie, brrrrr, the Riveter.

Women in the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent during the war years, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women was working outside the home.

Women made the greatest impact in the aviation industry, where they represented 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce by 1943, compared to just 1 percent in the years prior to the war.

After the song’s popularity, the U.S. government used images of the Rosie character to aid in recruiting women to aid in the war effort, and the bandanna-wearing woman showed up in newspapers, posters, photographs and articles.

While Walters was the inspiration for the original song, it was another woman, Naomi Parker Fraley, who was depicted in the iconic poster.

In 1942, an artist named J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters. One of the posters was the famous “We Can Do It” image and was intended to help motivate Westinghouse employees.

It’s thought Miller was inspired by a photo he saw of Naomi Parker Fraley, who was pictured working in the machine shop at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California.

Millers poster was displayed for only a two-week period in February 1943. It wasn’t until decades later that “We Can Do It” re-surfaced, and by the early 1980’s it began to be used by women in various fields as a symbol of empowerment.

Now Nine Line is paying homage to all the working women of America, all the “Rosies” today for whom no task is too large and no problem is too impossible to overcome.

Grit and grace: it’s what makes every female in this nation a true red, white and blue American woman!

https://nine.li/GritandGrace

Nine Line is an American Clothing Company with American made Apparel and Accessories- Veteran Owned and Operated

One Response

  1. Sue Cossa

    Thanks for the info on Rosie. To me she’s always been the representation of my mother-in-law, Barbra Cossa, who went off to Portsmouth, NH to work in the shipyards at a young age and continued to be a working woman most of her life. They paved the way for us. Thanks!

    Reply

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