The propaganda around “Rosie the Riveter” reshaped the role of women in the workforce and home during World War II. The “Rosie the Riveter” campaign created by J. Howard Miller was created to motivate women to join the workforce to assist in U.S mobilization and fill in the gaps in the workforce caused by drafts. Unfortunately, the campaign only targeted white, middle-class women who had stayed at home because of the Great Depression and class identity. Working class women and women of color were not represented through propaganda at the time. Furthermore, the representation of women in propaganda during World War II created limitations for women who were not targeted through propaganda based on race, gender, and class attitudes of this time.
There is a wide range of primary and secondary sources representing women during World War II such as posters, political cartoons, photographs, and interviews. Many of the primary sources come from a popular magazine during World War II called the Saturday Evening Post, which contained propaganda representing only white, middle-class women. Historian Maureen Honey’s work is a central secondary source due to her expertise of Women in World War II. Other secondary work such as, Tawnya J. Adkins Covert’s Manipulating Images: World War II Mobilization of Women through Magazine Advertising provides significant primary sources as well as an interpretation on the representation of women through propaganda during World War II. Both the primary and secondary sources will benefit my argument that World War II propaganda still limited women based on race, gender, and class attitudes of this time.
The significance of researching propaganda during World War II is to understand the limitations created by representing only white, middle-class women. World War II propaganda targeted white, middle-class women due to class identity. Therefore there was a lack of representation for working class women and women of color. It is important for scholars to understand the limitations of non-white, middle class women based on race, gender, and class that were created by propaganda. By understanding the limitations historians can grasp the hardships faced by working class women and women of color during World War II as well as the extensive achievements in autonomy for women after the war years.
Tebbel, John. George Horace Lorimer and the “Saturday Evening Post”. (New York: Double Day & Co., 1948).
Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1964),
Memo from Dorothy Ducas to Ulric Bell, July 15, 1942, OWI Historical Records file, Entry 339, Box 1695, National Archives and Records Administration.
“Editors Conference Report,” April 5, 1943, OWI Meetings for Magazine Editors file, Entry 339, Box 1695, National Archives and Records Administration.
“Supplement for Love Story and Western Love Magazines.” September 11, 1942, OWI Magazine War Guide file, Entry 345, Box 1700, National Archives and Records Administration.
Adkins Covert, Tawnya J. Manipulating Images: World War II Mobilization of Women through Magazine Advertising. Lexington Studies in Political Communication. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2012.
Brock, Julia, Jennifer W. Dickey, Richard J.W. Harker, and Catherine M. Lewis. Beyond Rosie: A Documentary History of Women and World War II. 2015.
Fessler, Diane Burke. “Emily Yellin, Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II”. New York: Free Press, 2004. Journal of Cold War Studies 9, no. 4 (2007): 166-67.
Honey, Maureen. Biter Fruit: African American Women in World War II. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999.
Honey, Maureen. Creating Rosie the Riveter: Class, Gender, and Propaganda during World War II. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.
Meyer, Leisa D. Creating GI Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Mullenbach, Cheryl. Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2017.
Rupp, Leila J. Mobilizing Women for War: German and American Propaganda, 1939-1945. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1978.