Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Imani. Imani Wonders, “Who was Rosie the Riveter?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Imani!

Today’s Wonder of the Day takes you back to the time of World War II. The United States—and, indeed, the entire world—was consumed by the battles taking place all over the globe. It’s hard for most young children today to understand what it was like to live through World War II.

After all, life was quite different in the early 1900s. Technology was less advanced. Few people owned cars or trucks. No one had cell phones, color TV, or video games. The Industrial Revolution had occurred a century earlier, but it was still mostly men who worked in factories. Women typically worked in the home, raising children and running the household.

When the United States entered World War II, though, life changed for many people. Millions of young people joined the military. Men were sent overseas to fight battles in foreign countries. Back at home, these soldiers were sorely missed—both by their families and the workforce.

When young men left to fight in the war, many had to leave their jobs in factories. However, the military still relied upon factories to produce the things needed to fight a war. This included weapons, ammunition, airplanes, tanks, and all sorts of other supplies.

That’s when many women began to work the factory jobs left open by soldiers fighting the war. For most women, this was the first time they had worked outside the home. During World War II, 6.5 million American women entered the workforce. They were paid far less than men. Still, they worked hard to support the war effort and earn money for their families. At the height of the war, over 13 million American women worked outside the home.

In 1942, musicians Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote a song called “Rosie the Riveter.” They were inspired by a factory worker named Rosalind P. Walter. She helped manufacture the F4U Corsair fighter airplane during the war. The song praised all working women for their tireless support of the American war effort:

“All the day long,

Whether rain or shine,

She’s part of the assembly line.

She’s making history,

Working for victory,

Rosie the Riveter!”

Over the course of the war, “Rosie the Riveter” became a symbol of feminism. She represented the power of women to make a difference in society. Another woman—Rose Will Monroe—also became linked with the image of Rosie the Riveter. She appeared in a short film about the war effort that included the popular song.

One of the most lasting images people connect to Rosie the Riveter was the Westinghouse “We Can Do It!” poster created by J. Howard Miller. The poster promoted the war effort at home. The woman shown on the poster is who many people think of when they hear “Rosie the Riveter.”

After the war, many women chose to continue to work in factories. Others chose to return to working in their homes. Both choices allowed them to contribute to society in important ways. Many historians point to Rosie the Riveter as the inspiration for a new generation of women to consider careers previously unavailable to them.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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Join us tomorrow on a trip to Scandinavia in search of the past!