At least, we thought she was Rosie the Riveter.
During our research into Rosie the Riveter, we discovered that the woman gracing the J. Howard Miller poster – the one that proclaims “We Can Do It!” – isn’t actually Rosie the Riveter, she is simply referred to as We Can Do It!
The term ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was actually coined after the We Can Do It! poster was published. Rosie the Riveter has her origins in the title of a song by Evans and Loeb. This song, about a woman who works hard for the U.S. war effort, was released months after the poster first appeared, but it seems that history has conflated the iconic poster with the name Rosie the Riveter.
The real image for Rosie the Riveter was painted by none other than Norman Rockwell. He depicted Rosie eating lunch with her riveting gun in her lap, her arms perched upon her lunchbox (marked ‘Rosie’) and her loafered feet resting atop a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Her pose is modeled after Michelangelo’s depiction of Isaiah in the fresco for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Whatever their origins, Miller’s We Can Do It and Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter remain unmistakable (though, perhaps, often confused) icons of the U.S. during WW2; and both stand as testaments to the strength of women and their capability to rise to any challenges history throws at them.
-- Daniel Ferrante