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Rosie the Riveter was a media propaganda creation devised to encourage women to fill in for men while they were fighting World War II. During the war, so many men were sent off to combat and so much new production was needed to support the war effort that there was a gross shortage of manpower to staff factories and manufacturing plants. As a result, a print, film, and radio campaign encouraged women to leave their homes and take over jobs previously held by men for the duration of the war. “Rosie the Riveter” was the name given to the woman depicted on many of the propaganda posters. In the most famous one, she is wearing a red and white bandana to cover her hair, and she has rolled back the sleeve of her blue coverall to expose a flexed bicep. The caption above her head reads, “We Can Do It!” in bold letters.
Women responded, and they operated heavy construction machinery, worked in lumber and steel mills, unloaded freight, built dirigibles, made munitions, and much more. Although many discovered that they enjoyed the autonomy these relatively high paying jobs provided them, as men began to return home from the war, the government instituted another propaganda campaign urging women to “return to normalcy.” Many did return to their prior domestic roles, but the experience demonstrated that women could hold jobs previously thought appropriate only for men. This represented the beginning of women's entrance into the full-time workforce on a permanent basis—a change that was not complete until the 1970s and 1980s.
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