Until World War II, the automobile industry has been a predominantly male bastion. But with so many men called to serve, more women than ever looking for employment. While their fathers, son, husband and friends fought in Europe and Asia, women served the war effort right at home by filling quickly and competently.
In 1943, two years after the U.S. entered the war, more than 30 percent of Ford workers in the machining and assembly departments were women. Women built jeeps, aircraft B-24, and tractors. They even flew planes, becoming test pilots of the B-24 that were built for the war effort. They operated drills, welding tools, heavy machinery and casting as Rose-Monroe-riveting guns.
The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in 1942 in a song recorded by the conductor popular Kay Kyser large, which becomes a national hit. The song depicts “Rosie” as a line worker tirelessly, doing his part to help the American war effort. Although the song was inspired by Rosalind P. Walter, Rosie the Riveter became more closely associated with another real woman, Rose Monroe, Michigan, who moved to the Second World War. Rose Monroe was left a widow with two young children after her husband was killed in a car accident. Like millions of other women in America, she joined the staff to respond to a call to arms and to support his family.
She worked as a riveter at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, building B-29 and B-24 bombers for the U.S. Air Forces of the Army. Because Monroe happened to best fit the description of the worker described in the “Rosie the Rivert” song, she asked to star in a promotional film about the war effort at home. Rosie went on to become perhaps the most widely recognized icon of that era. The films and posters she appeared in were used to encourage women to go to work to support the war effort.
When the war ended, and his wife Rose Monroe colleagues in times of war were sent home for returning soldiers could return to work before the war. But women had made their point, and had changed the American workplace forever. Monroe has realized his dream of piloting a plane when she was in her 50.
After the war was over, gender was added to the non-discrimination clause in the contract between the company and the UAW in 1946, another indication of the changing times and the impact that “Rosie the Riveter “had on industrial production at Ford Motor Company and elsewhere. In the decades that followed, the law caught up with the changes, and more women have taken their rightful place in the boardroom and on the factory floor.
Related Link: View more Popular Culture stories