Gender & Technical Knowledge in The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (1980)
Domestic. Shop girl. Waitress. Cook. Those were the jobs for women in the 1930's — when they could get work. Suddenly the U.S. entry into World War II created an unprecedented demand for new workers. Notions of what was proper work for women changed overnight. Thousands of posters and billboards appeared calling on women to "Do the Job He Left Behind." Rosie the Riveter was born — the symbol of working women during World War II.
After whirlwind training, women found themselves doing "men's work" and they did it so well that production levels rose despite the military call-up of millions of male workers. They discovered a new sense of pride and dignity in their work. Their earnings leapt upwards. Many joined unions and found substantial new benefits from labor representation. And for the first time in history, black women gained entry into major industrial plants.
When the war was over, Rosie wanted to stay. But neither the structure of the American economy nor the dominant view of women's place in society sustained such hopes.
The story is told by the women themselves — five former "Rosies" who movingly recall their histories working in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco during the war. Their testimony is interwoven with rare archival recruitment films, stills, posters, ads and music from the period which contrast their experiences with the popular legend and mythology of Rosie the Riveter.