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Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in war factories during World War II, many of whom worked in the manufacturing plants that produced munitions and materiel. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military. The character is considered a feminist icon in the US.
According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, the "Rosie the Riveter" movement increased the number of working American women to 20 million by 1944, a 57% increase from 1940. Although the image of "Rosie the Riveter" reflected the industrial work of welders and riveters during World War II, the majority of working women filled non-factory positions in every sector of the economy.What unified the experiences of these women was that they proved to themselves (and the country) that they could do a "man's job" and could do it well.
Conditions were sometimes harsh and pay was not always equal—the average man working in a wartime plant was paid $54.65 per week, while women were paid about $31.50. Nonetheless, women quickly responded to Rosie the Riveter, who convinced them they had a patriotic duty to enter the workforce. Some claim that she forever opened up the work force for women, but others dispute that point, noting that many women were discharged after the war and their jobs given to returning servicemen.
The documentary film The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter addresses the history of Rosie.