On Sunday, October 24th, 2,097 women made history at the Old Willow Run Bomber Plant, which is about 30 miles south of Detroit. The Guinness Book of World Records was there to capture this historical event, an event based on a real historical event that changed the way both men and women saw women’s roles in the workplace.
On October 24th, 2,097 women set the Guinness World Record for having the most number of people dressed as “Rosie the Riveter” in one location. Included in the group were 43 of the original women who worked for the war effort, many of whom worked at the Old Willow Run Bomber Plant where the group met. In the news photos, you can see everyone wearing the traditional attire of the famous icon: red bandannas with white polka dots and blue coveralls.
“Rosie the Riveter” was a female factory worker depicted on United States government propaganda posters during World War II. She represented the many women who worked in factories and shipyards, producing much-needed war supplies during a time when men were serving in the military. The shortage of available male workers forced the government to look at the work force with a fresh set of eyes.
The government realized that in order to encourage women to enter the workforce and support the war effort, they would have to do two things. First, they would have to encourage women to see their skills and their abilities differently and to make them feel empowered to join the workforce. For example, one government advertisement read, “Can you use an electric mixer? If so, you can learn to operate a drill.” Another says, “The Navy needs you! Don’t read American history – Make it!” Second, the government also geared advertisements toward men, encouraging them to support their wives war efforts and to see that a woman working is an asset. On poster reads, “The girl he left behind is still behind him now. She’s a WOW (Woman Ordnance Worker)”
The great thing about the “Rosie the Riveter” propaganda is that it opened up a world of opportunities for women in traditionally male-dominated fields. It make is not just okay but honorable to work in these industries. Sadly, after the war ended, government propaganda shifted and encouraged women to go back to the doing more clerical, lower-paying work or return to the home and stop working altogether.
When I saw the news story about all the “Rosies” posing for a picture, I started to wonder what our country and our world would look like if we encouraged more women to enter the STEM fields. What would it look like to see more gender balance in traditionally male-dominated fields? How can we work to shift people’s perspectives and open their minds to a new world where career choices aren’t seen as gender-specific options by our young people?