With ruined ships still smoking in Pearl Harbor, suddenly desperate for equipment to fight a war, U. S. government and industry began to urge women to do their "patriotic duty" and take places emptied by men now in the armed forces. They reached out to singles, housewives and women with families, trying to convince them - and their husbands - they could do important jobs on assembly lines.
As the year advanced, Bandleader Kay Kyser recorded a new song titled "Rosie the Riveter." The lyrics described a woman who All day long, Whether rain or shine, She's a part of the assembly line.... BRRR- Rosie the Rivet-er." It quickly dominated the airwaves.
TheSaturday Evening Post promoted the idea of a female riveter on May 29, 1943, when Norman Rockwell's cover pictured a robust woman sitting before an American flag, her rivet gun on her lap, her penny loafers resting on a battered copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Her lunchbox, clearly marked "Rosie," completed the image. But with Rockwell's version under copyright, the image that became iconic was a poster by Westinghouse Co. artist J. Howard Miller. A determined woman, hair tied up in a bandanna, and right bicep flexed, declares, "We Can Do It!"
Convinced of the need, women, single, young and middle-aged, married with families, responded in such numbers that by the end of the year, 310,000 women were serving in defense industries, 65% of them in aircraft factories.
They weren't always welcomed there by their male co-workers - until the males saw they could do many jobs just as well as, if not better than, men. One notable woman who continues to prove her worth is Elinor Otto, still driving rivet's at age 93 at the Boeing C-7 aircraft factory in Long Beach, CA. Her bright red hair remains a fixture on an assembly line staffed with men and women half her age. Never interested in retirement, she laughs and says, "When I get to heaven, I hope God keeps me busy!"
Read more of Elinor Otto's story in the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-c1-rosie-riveter-20130918-dto,0,850841.htmlstory