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Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter

Representing women who entered the workforce during WWII, Rosie is strong, determined, and eating a ham sandwich. See learning resources here.

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1943, oil on canvas, 52 x 40 inches (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art). A conversation with Dr. Margi Conrads, Chief Curator, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Dr. Beth Harris, Smarthistory.
Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Anthony Natoli
    Rosie clearly has a halo, too, further evoking the Madonna such as in Fra Filippo Lippi's painting shown at .

    But what is that "halo"? Some sort of string or loop of rope from the flag? It's different from her see-through face-mask.

    Does the face-mask also evoke the Madonna, such as a typical headdress worn by Mary as in the Fra Filippo Lippi painting at ?
    (14 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user weber
      I noticed the same thing. I can't think of any other interpretation of it other than Rockwell riffing on the Renaissance version of a halo, tilted on a plane that seems to match that of her pushed back visor. An essay by Jenny Carson, written on the Rockwell Museum website, mentions "As if the message of her strength, patriotism, and fulfillment of duty were not apparent enough in these details, a large American flag makes up the background and she wears a transparent visor, resembling a halo, raised above her head," but to me it looks as though there's both visor and halo. The blogger at "The Pop History Dig" agrees with us: "Rockwell’s Rosie also has a halo floating just above the pushed-back visor on her head." The author chalked it up to Roclkwell's mix of irreverent humor and patriotic tone. And the evocation of the Madonna may not be so far off. I can't see them clearly, but reportedly one of the pins she's wearing is that of a Blue Star Mother, so apparently the indomitanble Rosie has also offered up a son to the war.
      (6 votes)
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user devorahi6
    in it mentions that denim was iconic for a work force, when did it become that way?
    (6 votes)
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    • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Jason Rich
      Jeans, invented in 1871 and patented in 1873, were as far as I can tell marketed that way from the beginning. Workers, slaves and miners wore them because of the durability of the fabric. According to smithsonianmag.com," It all started in 1871, when tailor Jacob Davis of Reno, Nevada, had a problem. The pants he was making for miners weren’t tough enough to stand up to the conditions in local mines; among other issues, the pockets and button fly were constantly being torn. “A miner’s wife came up to Davis and asked him to come up with pants that could withstand some abuse,” says curator Nancy Davis (no relation), from the American History Museum. Davis looked at the metal fasteners he used on harnesses and other objects. “At that time, he came up with the riveted trousers.”"
      (6 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user sydney.goddard
    why is the girl holding a sandwhich
    (3 votes)
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  • boggle purple style avatar for user wen
    OH OH OH my piano teacher has an ACTUAL REAL LIFE ANTIQUE "Saturday Evening Post" magazine from 1842( I think) and it has Rosie on it!!
    WW2 fanatic
    PANDA
    PS my teacher's father was in the war!
    PPS do any of YOU study WW2? i haven't yet. but it already sounds cool to me!
    PPPS the cover of the magazine is the picture of Rosie on the left, holding a sandwich
    (5 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Harriet Buchanan
      I'm a bit of a history buff, and I've read about WWII on and off for the past 40 years. There are hundreds of books, and it's almost impossible to understand all of it at one time, thus the on and off for me. Winston Churchill wrote a marvelous history of the European theater in a 6-volume set if you want a lot of detail. There are also books from the German point of view that are worth reading. For the war in the Pacific you'll need other authors. It can be a life-long hobby. :)
      (4 votes)
  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Johanna Chesshir
    No woman looks like that. Isn't the whole point of this is that powerful doesn't have to mean masculine?
    (3 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Karah Marie W
      actually some women do look like that but in that era power is commonly associated with the size of their muscles. The bigger the muscles, the more power they have (excepting in politics, of course). Plus it symbolizes that women taking the men's jobs gives America more strength hence the flag in the background
      (7 votes)
  • female robot ada style avatar for user sanchezmariam40
    That was a great video but does anyone know Rosie's full name because I cant seem to find anything about her?
    (4 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      You must not have looked here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosie_the_Riveter#Images

      In 1942, Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters for the war effort. One of these posters became the famous "We Can Do It!" image—an image that in later years would also be called "Rosie the Riveter", though it was never given this title during the war. Miller is thought to have based his "We Can Do It!" poster on a United Press International wire service photograph taken of a young female war worker, widely but erroneously reported as being a photo of Michigan war worker Geraldine Hoff More recent evidence indicates that the formerly mis-identified photo is actually of war worker Naomi Parker (later Fraley) taken at Alameda Naval Air Station in California.
      Rockwell's model was a Vermont resident, 19-year-old Mary Doyle, who was a telephone operator near where Rockwell lived, not a riveter. Rockwell painted his "Rosie" as a larger woman than his model, and he later phoned to apologize.[52] In a post interview, Mary explained that she was actually holding a sandwich while posing for the poster and that the rivet-gun she was holding was fake,
      (3 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Hannah
    It looks like a halo above Rosie's head, but what is that?
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user bked6600
    who created this artwork
    (2 votes)
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  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Xander
    No where in the video do they mention the mask on her head. What does that symbolize?
    (3 votes)
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  • starky seed style avatar for user Alyssa Keller
    These paintings are very beautiful and cool looking I like the texture look of the paintings and how he maid it look so real like the her denim clothing. I like how Rockwell created the women in his pictures to look manly, it makes Rosie look like a body builder but it also makes her seem strong or like she is not scared of anything. Its really cool because during the war all the girls were nurses and would wear white dresses nothing like his paintings.
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(piano music) - [Voiceover] We're at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art looking at an American icon, Norman Rockwell's painting of Rosie the Riveter from 1943. - [Voiceover] We see this woman who is muscular and tough and wearing goggles, and eating a ham sandwich, and wearing denim overalls that iconic image of the support that women lent on the home front for World War II. - [Voiceover] Thousands and thousands of women entered the workforce during the war. Men went to serve in the war and women served their country by going to work taking the place of men. - [Voiceover] If you're able to see a picture of the woman who sat as Rockwell's model for Rosie, she was much more feminine, but he marries her face with the Prophet Isaiah that is at the top of the Sistine Chapel. That figure that Michelangelo created was this incredibly muscular figure, so in a way this is a male figure onto which a female head and then also a more voluptuous body is created. He also uses that point of view that Michelangelo used so well. Having us the viewer look up at the figure. Anytime that you're looking from below it makes the figure loom larger. - [Voiceover] And that machine she's carrying, the riveter that she used to construct airplanes, it looks heavy. It looks like she must have been very strong to carry that and to do her job. - [Voiceover] You get the sense that she has the power. Both the physical power, but also the grit to be successful. I love the way that she is holding her lunchbox, which gives us her name, Rosie. She is almost holding it like an animal claw, going over it, that is again so strong. She's on her lunch in this picture, but there is nothing relaxed about her. She is on a mission and she is never going to waver. We have the stars and stripes reminding us her reason for taking on this work. At the same time, if you look at her feet, and she's wearing such an American pair of loafers. - [Voiceover] Oh, and I love her socks. - [Voiceover] Don't you love her socks. And you can just really feel the texture of them, but she is standing and crushing a copy of Mein Kampf. - [Voiceover] That was a book that Hitler wrote explaining his anti-Semitic ideology and his plans for Germany. But what's interesting for me too is that riveter, that machine, and the hose that comes out of it almost reads like a serpent. There is a passage in Isaiah where he refers to the serpent, and of course this is a symbol of evil. So we have a sense of her righteousness, her patriotism, her desire to serve her country, and also, to stamp out Nazi ideology. - [Voiceover] That riveting drill has overcome that serpent like shape and basically brought it under control. - [Voiceover] And well also when you said that idea of it being on her lap, I thought immediately of images from the Renaissance, of a Madonna and child. But here no child but a machine. - [Voiceover] Where that takes me is to thinking about how this painting is created in 1943, America's increasing connection to the war, lending that power that would allow the Germans to be defeated was really coming into its own at this moment. We see the home version of what's helping that happen. - [Voiceover] I just want to through in my favorite part, which is what's tucked into her pocket, because in all of her strength and all of the way that she reads in a masculine way, she's got a compact and handkerchief. She's working in this job that is traditionally a man's job, wearing man's clothing, and these masculine looking shoes and socks. She's not forgetting her femininity. - [Voiceover] I love the fact that it looks like she's just put on her lipstick. And even in the pose it has an elegance that does have a feminine twist to it. - [Voiceover] You can sense that the paint was applied very thinly. You can see the texture of the canvas underneath as though Rockwell seems to have chosen a canvas that was especially course in its weave. So her roughness and her ability to tough it out, and to do what her country needs, fits with the surface that this was painted on. - [Voiceover] It allowed Rockwell to get that feeling of blue jean denim without having to actually paint the texture. Another detail that I just love in this painting is the row of buttons. You see a Red Cross pin. You also see a V for victory pin. You see some other buttons that relate to supporting organizations that were lending help. Particularly those that women were engaged in for the war. But here they also act has her jewelry. In another circumstance, if she had had on her white cotton blouse and her skirt, she would have probably had on a necklace to go with, but here the organizational buttons provide that. - [Voiceover] And it's funny that you said that, because I was just thinking about how overalls are fashionable today, and how unusual this would have been. To see a woman wearing clothing like this. This must have been shocking in a way that I think is hard for us to recapture today. - [Voiceover] There's so many things that were overturned during this World War II period as far as what was acceptable for women to do. It's interesting because after the war there was a real tension and real challenges. Particularly in the workplace, because women proved that they could do the job of men. When you had veterans coming home, who of course wanted their jobs back, there was on the one hand this great feedom that women felt and they really felt that they could go on and do so many more things than say in the pre-war era, but at the same time there was a conversation around what really is a woman's proper place. ♫ Rosie, Rosie, Rosie ♫ The riveter ♫ On the assembly line ♫