Rosie the Riveter: Icon of Beauty, Brawn and Power

November 11, 2016-April 27, 2017
Rosenberg Library, 4th Floor
Ocean Campus
Library Hours


The image of Rosie the Riveter became a powerful icon during World War II. As men left their manufacturing jobs to join the military, women were recruited to work in the growing defense industry to support the war effort. Positive images of women doing non-traditional “masculine” jobs while remaining “feminine” were created to change gender norms around work roles. Rosie the Riveter got her name in a 1942 song by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb and was further popularized when Norman Rockwell’s Rosie painting was featured on the cover of a 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s muscular Rosie defies convention, equipped as she is with a jackhammer in her lap and work goggles.

Artist J. Howard Miller created the most famous version of Rosie in his poster featuring an arm-flexing, bandana-wearing factory girl under the slogan “We Can Do It!” Over the last six decades, this image became a symbol of empowerment for women and has been reproduced and repurposed in a multitude of ways, gracing everything from lunch boxes to political posters. Rockwell’s image was better known during the 1940s, but Miller’s version was not restricted by copyright and has since become a cultural phenomenon through its widespread use in social media.

This exhibition explores the history of the original Rosies in U.S. shipyards during World War II, the way in which the icon of Rosie has been altered in the service of political activism and the inventive ways that women have made Rosie their own.


For this exhibition, the CCSF Library continues its longstanding collaboration with the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State University.

The Labor Archives and Research Center preserves the rich, lively labor history of the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Center is open to the public and holds more than 6,000 feet of primary source material, predominantly from the 20th century. The Labor Archives collects union records, personal papers, scrapbooks, photographs, posters, oral histories, and artifacts documenting local working people and labor organizations. Founded in 1985 by trade union leaders, historians, and university administrators, the Labor Archives is a unit of the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University.

Votan Henriquez, “Warrior Wombyn (aka Rezzie the Riveter).”

Click for the Rosie the Riveter library exhibition assignment and list of books, websites and articles.


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