"We Can Do It!"

"We Can Do It!"

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Artist J. Howard Miller produced this work-incentive poster for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. Though displayed only briefly in Westinghouse factories, the poster in later year has become one of the most famous icons of World War II.
As women were encouraged to take wartime jobs in defense industries, they became a celebrated symbol of female patriotism. But when the war ended, many industries forced women to relinquish their skilled jobs to returning veterans.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
ca 1942
Westinghouse Electric Corporation
War Production Coordinating Committee
Miller, J. Howard
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 22 in x 17 in; 55.88 cm x 43.18 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Homefront, World War II
Rosie the Riveter
World War II
See more items in
Political and Military History: Political History, Home Front Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
Industry & Manufacturing
National Treasures exhibit
Princeton Posters
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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You might enjoy this. A few years ago my daughter sculpted Rosie. Then she scanned her, scaled her up to a 6 foot height, divided her into about 2500 3D print files, and people all over the world printed the parts and sent them back for assembly at a museum in New Mexico. The original Rosie was always depicted as white woman, but my daughters version is a mosaic of skin tones. You can see it and video of it being assembled here: https://www.jenschachter.com/we-the-rosies
The model for Norman Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter" displayed on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943 was Mary Doyle Keefe, of Vermont. Although many women claimed to be the model for J. Howard Miller's Westinghouse "We Can Do It!" poster, research later determined that Westinghouse's Rosie the Riveter was Naomi Fern Parker Fraley of Alemeda, California. Naomi "Rosie the Riveter" Fraley passed away on January 20, 2018 at the age of 96.
My great aunt was a model during this time frame. Nancy Hendrix sat for the artist as he sketched the Westinghouse comissioned poster. When she viewed the sketch she was unhappy with the brown eyes because she had beautiful green eyes. The artist told her that he updated her eyes to brown due to German influence at the time.
I'd love to see your aunt's poster! I wonder if the Rosie that modeled for the famous poster (Naomi Parker Fraley) had green eyes? I hear she passed away at the age of 96. Rest in peace Rosie!
Not all female aircraft production workers were riveters! My mother-in-law, Norma Pierce, worked at Boeing in Wichita as a seamstress, stitching the fabric covering for training planes used by the services to prepare pilots for much more powerful warplanes made of aluminum. They also served who stitched and sewed!
My grandmother was a "Rosie' in Long Beach, CA, working for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company. She actually did rivet the siding onto the planes. She never spoke of that time much, except right before she died 6 years ago. You see, my grandfather was a B-29 bomber pilot stationed in the Marianas Islands in the Pacific Theater. In 1945 he was on his third and last deployment before he would have maxed out all of his service hours and he could retire. He took off on his last bombing mission over Japan on June 22, 1945. Once he returned he was going to head home for good. His plane never made it back and he was MIA and it was almost a year following Hiroshima that a final report was made. His plane was shot down and he survived. He and the other survivors were tortured to death, including being medically experimented on, which also included vivisection, and often done without anesthesia . Other than his name and the fact he was in the war, all of this was unknown to me until 8 years ago. His memory was too painful for her to bear, so everything about him was locked in a trunk in the attic. I never even saw a picture of him before 8 years ago. Sorry, I'm rambling....
Dear Mr Jeffrey Jones, You ARE NOT RAMBLING!! You have written a very POWERFUL, and MOVING account of your grandmother experiences, during what has become the: GREATEST GENERA- TION, to quote NBC's Tom Brokaw. I SALUTE!! you and I THANK YOU!! for you're fami- lies Efforts and Sacrifices. One of my uncles, was the gunner/cannon operator on the B17 Flying Fortress. It was located towards the rear of the aircraft, on the underside. But you probably knew this. Another uncle was a fighter pilot, during the Korean War.
Your grandfather's story is extremely powerful. I cried reading this and it was so moving. Both your grandparents were so influential in the War. Its stories like this that keep their memory alive for years to come!
Jeffrey, thank you for sharing. Your grandmother was an amazing woman to go through all that. I can't even imagine!
The poster remains a powerful symbol of brave women who came forward to serve. The woman shown is beautiful, suggesting that she doesn't lose her appeal because she does a dangerous, unpleasant or filthy job. The tasks to be done were often far from glamorous and the working conditions unpleasant. At one point, taking a wartime factory job would mean six full days of work and half a day off on Saturdays. Shifts ran around the clock. Much was made of factories that offered such amenities as a hair dresser on site, ignoring the fact that workers would have virtually no personal time off site. Male colleagues were likely to be unwelcoming or even hostile, and sexual harassment would have been standard issue. Which is probably why the poster woman rolling up her sleeves appears to be making a then very well known arm gesture that translates gently as "Get Lost, Jerk."
I'd like to put forward a proposal that the 'gesture' that 'Rosie' is making in this image has absolutely nothing to do with fending off male attention. She is not grasping her bicep, which is I think more indicative of the common gesture of defiance that you are referring to. She is rolling up her sleeve, which symbolised that women during the second world war were not afraid to work hard in male-oriented roles and were doing so in determination for victory.
I do believe that both opinions are valid, but the Rosie the Riveter was mostly just representing that change was happening and women were as qualified as men. The outcomes of a sign that really meant: "Get Lost, Jerk" would totally defeat the purpose of the propaganda poster, would probably just give the men at the time a leg up, and would invite them to be more misogynistic. Both answers are fine, but the first response was more justified and in the case of the content, much more rational.
When this this poster appeared in the 1940's it prompted a family discussion that revealed my grandmother worked in a munitions factory during WWI. She assembled and packaged hand grenades. When prompted, she showed us a souvenir grenade the company gave to workers. It had been converted to a coin bank. My brother and I were fascinated but she didn't like it and usually kept it out of sight. My grandfather was a master shipwright and his war-critical job kept him out of the military. Otherwise they never talked about either World War. I know they were terrified when their only son (my Dad) survived 3 years in the European Theater only to be sent to California in the summer of '45 in preparation for the invasion of Japan... which, of course, didn't happen. I was much older before I understood what that "Greatest Generation" went through.
I love this poster, it is amazing! We can do it!
I have a coffee cup with this picture. I have it on my fridge. It reminds me that women can do great things.
My aunt was a Rosie the Rivetor in Southern Calif during WWll. She had to make a practice box riveting it together. I have the box. I was wondering if your museum has a box that the ladies made to practice before they worked on planes.
Was this Rosie the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter song?
"This poster was published in 1943. The Song Rosie the Riveter was recorded and released in 1942. This poster was actually commissioned by the Westinghouse electric and manufacturing company as a part of the united states effort to increase production and dedication within the warehouses. This poster was actually only posted for two weeks in February in 1943 and was never titled as Rosie the Riveter that she has become known as today. The poster was rediscovered in the 80's and misinterpreted as a symbol for the feminist movement and involvement in wwii. Miller never intended for "Rosie " to last longer than her two week poster debut, however she has somehow become ingratiated into society as a symbol for those women working in WWII."

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