Rosie the Riveter Gets Her Pink Slip

Vintage Illustration ww2 women warwork Rosie the Riveter

Vintage WWII ad Parker Quick Ink 1944

During WWII hundreds of men were leaving civilian jobs everyday to join the armed forces.

In their place marched in women, who were “carrying on” work that had to be done to keep America’s war program going at top speed. These gals were soldiers too helping us win the war doing tasks once considered unladylike, such as tending blast furnaces in steel mills, welding hulls in shipyards, running forklifts and working overtime on the riveting machine.

Patriotic Pride

Throughout the war, the armed forces newspaper, The Stars and Stripes had been bursting with pride with uplifting, home-front stories of the swell of patriotic cuties in blue overalls and hair bandanas, standing shoulder to shoulder with their men, taking up the load for Uncle Sam.

No effort was spared to get those ladies out of their homes and into overalls.

Vintage WWII ad illustration housewfe playing cards

In this 1943 ad prepared in cooperation with the War Advertising Council housewives were scolded to leave their afternoon bridge games and  get out and get a job to help the war effort:

“Must bullets whine and sirens shriek before all American women  realize that the time is here.The time for them to get out and drive a truck, load a freight car, carry a waitress tray, work in a day nursery, operate an elevator?”

“It isn’t pleasant, no! But neither is war. And the war won’t be won unless our men abroad fighting are backed up by our women at home, working.”

“Read the want ads in your home paper to see what war jobs there are for women in your area, then register at your local US Employment Service. There are paying jobs in many areas with training for the inexperienced. Get out and work, 4 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours if you can…but work…and stick to it till the war is won.”

“The idle woman will be a very lonely soul this year!”

The Swing Shift

vintage illustration ww2 train passengers

In this 1944 vintage ad from Pennsylvania Railroad , women serve a vital role on the rails.

“Railroading has always been regarded as a mans calling”, the ad begins.”But  when war reached deeply into railroad ranks- taking from the Pennsylvania Railroad alone more than 41,000 skilled and experienced workers for the armed Forces- women were employed to keep trains rolling.”

“Today approximately 22,000 women are serving in a wide variety of occupations”- four of which are shown in the ad.

“Positions such as trainmen, ticket sellers train passengers representatives ushers information and reservation personnel call for intelligence, courtesy and a high degree of efficiency. Young women have proved they can fill these roles most capably.”

“So we’re glad to have their help in the greatest job railroads have ever been called to do, moving men and material to victory!”

vintage illustration WWII Rosie the Riveter

“Hats off to the woman of the year!  For the duration,” The Mutual Life Insurance Company ad crows, “she has abandoned her typewriter to volunteer her quick hands and steady nerves where they can speed the biggest job our Uncle Sam ever had”

Vintage ad illustrations ww2 women warwork

In this ad from General Electric, women are filling all sorts of interesting and important war jobs from measuring wind currents at night, to guiding a plane to safe landing, all with the help naturally of GE lamps.

Vintage WWII ads

(L) 1944, WII era ad from 7-Up encourages you to drink 7-Up to keep up your war work energy (R) Texaco’s 1943 ad Alice working on the job at the defense plant

Rosie and her pal patriotically carpool to their job at the defense plant in this Kelly Tire ad from 1945. (R) Camels salutes the efforts of Rosie in building a tank

Advertisers regularly depicted women engaged in war work in their ads

A Change of Heart

But by 1945, even Uncle Sam was whistling a different tune, as in a  widely circulated War Dept. brochure proclaiming that “A woman is merely a substitute, like using plastic instead of metal.”

Those same glowing home front stories, now took a more scolding tone accusing these same patriotic girls of doing “unwomanly” jobs. Would there be a job left for Sargent Joe when he returned home to his best girl and the little recruit he left behind?

vintage ads WWII women and postwar women

Women went from serving the country to serving hubby a beer in the blink of an eye. (L) Canada dry salutes the gallant young women who dedicated to our country in their toast to the ladies in this 1944 ad (R) Postwar wife serving her own hero hubby home to the suburbs in this 1953 Schlitz beer ad.

Operation: June Cleaver

Suddenly, it seemed wherever you turned a fierce campaign was being launched with threatening messages aimed directly at women. The articles all implied that careers and higher education were leading to the masculinization of women with enormously dangerous consequences to the country, the home, the children and to the ability of the women as well as her husband to obtain sexual gratification.

If a woman held an important professional position, they more than implied, she would lose her womanly qualities!

It was all out war.

Rosie the Riveter is quickly replaced as a cover girl by Mother and child in the immediate post-war years (L) Vintage McCalls Magazine cover September 1942 (R) Vintage Ladies Home Journal June 1946, illustration by All Parker

It would be more than a decade until this secret campaign would reveal itself: “Operation: June Cleaver” would be a huge success!

After Rosie the Riveter finished her stint on the assembly line, Uncle Sam wanted her to keep up the same wartime production…only this time, in bed.

Copyright (©) 2012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved




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  2. I wish more young women had a clue how essential women were to the war effort. It was an extraordinary time, and women heroines in films of that era were wisecracking cool dames.

    Liked by 2 people

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  12. Susan

    I went to the Rosie The Riveter National Park in Richmond, CA, yesterday
    — and enjoyed it all the more because of your many excellent posts on
    the topic. The highlight was a lecture by Betty Soskin, a 94 year old
    park ranger who worked at one of the (segregated) union halls in the
    Richmond shipyards during WW II. I might have missed this experience if not
    motivated by your blog. And, if you’re ever in the San Francisco/Oakland area, you, Sally,
    would love to hear this wise, articulate woman’s look back over a century of life as a
    black American. What an inspiration she is! (She only lectures a few times each week, so visitors need to check the schedule online.) The park has tours, but it’s hard to tear yourself away from the many short documentary films being shown at the Visitor Education Center. What was not much mentioned was “Rosie Gets Her Pink Slip.” Thanks for your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing this Susan. It certainly sounds right up my alley. I believe some news program might have once done a small piece on Betty Soskin as her story sounds vaguely familiar. What a rich source of information she must be. I may be in the SF area for an art show next year and I will absolutely make a point of visiting it. So glad my posts helped inspire you to explore this fascinating piece of history.

      Liked by 1 person

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