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Abstract

World War II created mass destruction and economic distress but was also responsible for creating new opportunities for women. The war had torn families apart and had altered family dynamics. The high demands of the wartime economy called for a reevaluation of American women’s roles in society. In 1942, Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee to create a range of propaganda posters to encourage women to join the war effort.1 The most iconic was christened “Rosie the Riveter” and further popularized by Norman Rockwell. These images exemplified how the government wanted women to be perceived in the workplace. Wartime propaganda determined how women acted and dressed. During World War II, the Rosie the Riveter image not only exemplified the nationalism felt amongst U.S. citizens but also came to represent the generation of women who broke down societal boundaries. These women were heavily influenced by the media and became confused about their role in society. Throughout the twentieth century, the meaning behind the Rosie the Riveter image evolved as women continued to strive for freedom from societal norms. In the 1970s, women from the second-wave feminist movement rediscovered "Rosie the Riveter" and transformed the WWII era propaganda poster and her slogan "We Can Do It" into a symbol of women’s empowerment that has been carried across the generations and onto the banners of the contemporary feminists marching in the 2017 Women's Marches.

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