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Rosie the Riveters in color- photos of the women who built planes during WWII

Neil Patrick

Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military.

 

A Douglas Aircraft Company employee does delicate electrical work on a plane at the plant in Long Beach, California.

A Douglas Aircraft Company employee does delicate electrical work on a plane at the plant in Long Beach, California.

 

 

A Douglas Aircraft Company employee on her lunch break at the plant in Long Beach, California.

A Douglas Aircraft Company employee on her lunch break at the plant in Long Beach, California.

Nearly 19 million women held jobs during World War II. Many of these women had already been working. Only three million new female workers entered the workforce during the time of the war.Although most women took on male dominated trades during World War II, they were expected to return to their everyday housework once men returned from the war.

Government campaigns targeting women were addressed solely at housewives, likely because already-employed women would move to the higher-paid “essential” jobs on their own,  or perhaps because it was assumed that most would be housewives.  One government advertisement asked women: “Can you use an electric mixer? If so, you can learn to operate a drill.” All images via Library of Congress

A Douglas Aircraft Company worker rivets an A-20 bomber at the plant in Long Beach, California.

A Douglas Aircraft Company worker rivets an A-20 bomber at the plant in Long Beach, California.

 

A North American Aviation employee assembles a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane at the plant in Inglewood, California.

A North American Aviation employee assembles a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane at the plant in Inglewood, California.

 

A Vultee Aircraft employee touches up the U.S. Army Air Forces insignia on the fuselage of a Vengeance dive bomber at the plant in Nashville, Tennessee.

A Vultee Aircraft employee touches up the U.S. Army Air Forces insignia on the fuselage of a Vengeance dive bomber at the plant in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

A worker adjusts an airplane motor at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

A worker adjusts an airplane motor at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

 

A worker assembles part of the cowling for a B-52 bomber motor at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

A worker assembles part of the cowling for a B-52 bomber motor at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

 

 

A worker irons at a factory for self-sealing gas tanks owned by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio.

A worker irons at a factory for self-sealing gas tanks owned by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio.

 

 

Douglas Aircraft Company employees work an airplane motor at the plant in Long Beach, California.

Douglas Aircraft Company employees work an airplane motor at the plant in Long Beach, California.

 

Douglas Aircraft Company employees work on an airplane motor at the plant in Long Beach, California.

Douglas Aircraft Company employees work on an airplane motor at the plant in Long Beach, California.

 

Douglas Aircraft Company employees work on the belly of a bomber at the plant in Long Beach, California.

Douglas Aircraft Company employees work on the belly of a bomber at the plant in Long Beach, California.

 

Inspectors examine wing parts of C-47 transport planes at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California.

Inspectors examine wing parts of C-47 transport planes at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California.

 

Riveters work on the cockpit shell of a B-25 bomber at the North American Aviation Company plant in Inglewood, California.

Riveters work on the cockpit shell of a B-25 bomber at the North American Aviation Company plant in Inglewood, California.

 

Two assembly workers take a lunch break next to heavy bomber nacelle parts at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California.

Two assembly workers take a lunch break next to heavy bomber nacelle parts at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California.

 

War workers at a factory in Ohio.

War workers at a factory in Ohio.

 

Workers assemble a wing section for a P-51 fighter at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

Workers assemble a wing section for a P-51 fighter at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

 

Workers feed sections of sheet metal through a pneumatic numbering machine at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

Workers feed sections of sheet metal through a pneumatic numbering machine at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.

Propaganda was also directed at their husbands, many of whom were unwilling to support such jobs. Most women opted to do this. In 1944, when victory seemed assured for the United States, government-sponsored propaganda changed by urging women back to working in the home.

Later, many women returned to traditional work such as clerical or administration positions, despite their reluctance to re-enter the lower-paying fields. However, some of these women continued working in the factories. The overall percentage of women working fell from 36% to 28% in 1947