Rosie the Riveter Women Working During World War II Related to Paterson New Jersey Research Paper

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Rosie the Riveter

"Over 6 million women who had never worked for wages before took jobs, married women's labor force participation doubled, and unions gained 2.2 million women in a matter of 4 years. Not all of this was achieved without resistance, however. At the outset, most male managers were reluctant to employ women in all aspects of the defense industry, citing…'the lack of adequate toilet facilities' as an excuse for not hiring women" (Barker-Benfield, et al., 1998)

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan and the country launched a massive war effort -- sending millions of men to military training camps and building factories to produce planes, tanks, military vehicles, ships, and weapons. As a result of men leaving their jobs there was a need for women to take the places of the men who had to fight the war. This paper delves into the jobs those women were assigned to, including the women who worked in factories in and around Paterson, New Jersey. This paper also focuses on other issues related to women and the war effort at home during World War II.

Who was Rosie the Riveter and what did "she" do?

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There really was no one named "Rosie the Riveter" -- she was a fictional character created by the United States propaganda campaign to encourage women to come to work in factories during World War II. According to Linda Lowen (, Rosie's role was not intended to launch a new era in women's careers, nor was Rosie supposed to enhance the role of American women in the workplace. Instead, Rosie was created for the purposes of showing that women could fill the temporary industrial labor shortage that was caused by men volunteering to go off to war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The shortage was also due to the draft, which conscripted millions of men, took them from their jobs and put them in uniform.

Research Paper on Rosie the Riveter Women Working During World War II Related to Paterson New Jersey Assignment

Lowen references author Emily Yellin, who wrote Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II. Yellin reports that "Rosie the Riveter" was originally the title of a song in 1943; it was done by the Four Vagabonds and the lyrics encouraged women to become involved. "All day long whether rain or shine / She's part of the assembly line / She's making history working for victory" so her boyfriend Charlie, "fighting overseas, can someday come home and marry her" (Lowen, 2008).

Iconic artist / illustrator Norman Rockwell designed a rendering of Rosie the Riveter and it was published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 23, 1943, Lowen explains. After that another version of Rosie the Riveter was drawn -- which was "more glamorous" and more "colorful" -- featuring Rosie wearing a red bandana, showing "decidedly feminine features" and the phrase "We Can Do it!" was placed at the top of the poster in big letters. This version of Rosie was commissioned by the United States War Production coordinating Committee and it was actually drawn by artist Howard Miller.

The themes that were woven into the propaganda campaign (according to the National Park Service) included: a) patriotic duty (it was argued that the war would end sooner if more women went to work in the factories and more U.S. soldiers would die if women didn't come to work); b) good salaries (the pay was good but there was some worry that if women were given a "fat paycheck…there was a real fear that once these women started earning a weekly paycheck, they would overspend and cause inflation"); c) some glamour was involved in the work (women would still be viewed as feminine notwithstanding the dirt and grime) d) the campaign claimed the work would be not too different from housework; and e) "spousal pride" would be bestowed on all the women who came forward and went to work in the war factories (Lowen, p. 1).

How many women were at work during the wartime effort to get Rosie the Riveter into the war effort? Anthropologist Margaret Mead estimated that "more than 3 million women went to work specifically to aid the war effort" but many more women went to the war-related factories simply because "they desperately needed the money" (White, et al., 2007). The jobs that women took included "shipyard welding and riveting to outfitting bombers and fighters to sewing powder bags," White explains. The uniforms that women wore to work in the war effort included "slacks, shirts, and work shoes" and those became "…a true badge of honor" (White).

There were men who sexually harassed Rosie the Riveter -- it "was common but generally downplayed" -- and in response to the angst some men felt, the women workers were "encouraged to dress down," to avoid "tight sweaters so as not to inflame the hormones" of the males working side-by-side with them, White continues. In the months just before the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese, the percentage of women in the workforce was less than 25%. But by 1945 that percentage jumped to 34.7% White explained.

After the war ended, most women returned home to housework but there were "many more" who chose to keep working because "…they liked the money, the freedom, and the many constructive changes they were making in their lives," White goes on. Some sociologists believe Rosie the Riveter actually opened the door to the feminist movement of the Sixties and Seventies.

Women who worked in the war effort in New Jersey

The Wright Aeronautical Corporation (WAC) had factories in Paterson, NJ, and in Ohio. WAC built airplanes to support the war effort, and in their newsletter ("Wright at the Moment") dated April 3, 1943, there is a story titled "First women in Men's Jobs." The article points to a time "two years ago" (that would have been 1941) when Wright Aeronautical "began to employ women at jobs traditionally held by men." The first five women (i.e., the first five Rosie Riveters at WAC) were assigned to the Cyclone-builders at WAC. They were: Peg Minor, Helen Mullanaphy, Anne Fergusen, Gloria Canova and Anna Brown (Wright at the Moment).

Another article in the same "Wright at the Moment" newsletter features a story about a former ballet dancer that went to work for WAC running a drill press. Her name was Sczinka Steppenoff, and she had danced for the Kaiser (Germany) and for the Crown Princes of Europe. Now, she is quoted saying, she gets up at 5:30 A.M. ("I who never used to get up early before") and she goes "whistling through the streets" because "I've never been so happy in my life. I feel that I'm doing something for my country," she writes.

She was born in Prague and arrived in the United States in 1921 with the Pavlowa dance troupe. Ten years later she became a citizen. While working for the WAC she became a "full-fledged drill operator" and she takes "as much pride in her work as anyone in her department," the article explained. She was able to do 60 drill jobs in a day, much to her "great satisfaction." She wears her WAC work badge on her Sunday coat (Wright at the Moment).

Another article in the April 3, 1943 newsletter shows Katherine Benson working at her machine in WAC Plant 3. Benson has just signed a pledge card that pledges $8 to go for food for American prisoners of war. Her $8 contribution pays for another food for 100 prisoners for a month, the article explains.

For every woman that worked in a Rosie the Riveter capacity in war-related factories around the country there was a unique story of what brought her to these tasks and what her outcome was in doing the "man's work" for the war effort. Mary Augusto is a classic case in point when it comes to an immigrant from Italy settling in America, pulling herself up by the proverbial bootstraps, and acting as any patriotic American would act.

She arrived at Ellis Island in 1920 and soon joined some of her siblings that had previously settled in Paterson, New Jersey. She got a job in Paterson's then-thriving silk mills (with electricity produced by the Passaic River hurtling over Great Falls) and during the evening hours (for three years) she attended the International Institute for Young Women (sponsored by the YWCA) in Paterson, to learn English.

She also attended Columbia Shorthand and Business College in Paterson, and received her degree in shorthand in 1923. Her English was proficient enough to allow her to get a job (at the age of 23 in 1924) with the New World (I Nuova Mondo) as an editor-translator (from Italian to English). The New World was an Italian-language daily newspaper in New York City. After five years there, she moved to Brooklyn and became a naturalized citizen (Burstyn, 1997, 231).

In 1931 after moving back to Paterson Mary opened a candy store;… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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