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Changing America's History
Rosie the Riveter

When the United States entered the Second World War, "Rosie the Riveter" became the symbol for women workers in the American defense industries. The diversion of men from the labor pool into the military, as well as the increased production needed to support the war effort, prompted the federal War Manpower Commission and the Office of War Information to undertake a nationwide campaign to recruit women into the labor force.

Photo: Women shipyard workers.From 1940 to 1945, the number of female workers rose by 50 percent, from 12 million to 18 million. In 1940, women constituted 8 percent of total workers employed in the production of durable goods. By 1945, this number increased to 25 percent.

During the war years, women became streetcar conductors, taxicab drivers, business managers, commercial airline checkers, aerodynamic engineers, and railroad workers. Women operated machinery, streetcars, buses, cranes, and tractors. They unloaded freight, built dirigibles and gliders, worked in lumber mills and steel mills, and made munitions. In essence, women occupied almost every aspect of industry.

Graphic: Rosie the Riveter WWII poster.

Photo: Women workers at Boeing.

Top: Rosie the Riveter WWII poster.
Above: Women workers at Boeing.
Left: Women shipyard workers.

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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration