Rosie the Riveter: Enduring Emblem

The iconic “We Can Do It” poster became the most recognizable image of Rosie because the original was copyrighted by Norman Rockwell.

Mary Keefe, the subject of Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” painting, died this past week at the age of 92. The iconic portrait appeared on the cover of the Memorial Day 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post and, along with a 1942 song of the same name and the famous 1943 “We can do it!” poster, became a cultural icon for women in the workforce, especially in the industrial fields of welding and riveting, during World War II. There were nearly 19 million women in the workforce during World War II, many of them in previously male-dominated professions.

Since then, Rosie the Riveter has become a lasting symbol of feminism and female strength and a reminder that many traditionally male-centric trades are also available to women. That axiom might be more demonstrably true in welding than any other profession.

Largely because of an aging workforce, it is estimated that 238,692 new and replacement welding professionals will be needed between 2009 and 2019, and women are expected and need to be a large part of the new breed of welding professionals. Industry leaders, recruiters, schools and trade programs are rolling out the red carpet and doing all they can to attract women to this rewarding career. Maybe some will become this generation’s Rosie the Riveters and be featured in a timeless art piece, proving once again men aren’t the only ones able to handle welding tools.

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