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Wikipedia - Rosie the Riveter


May 26, 2005
Today's featured picture on Wikipedia is of a world war two lady operating a biggish lathe making parts for transport aircraft at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in Fort Worth Texas. The term 'Rosie the Riveter' was used to describe the gals who did the grimy factory jobs while the guys were away at the war getting shot at.

Its a great picture - possibly staged but not obviously so if it was. No safety glasses back in those days!

She looks pretty nice to me actually.
staged because the light is carefully set up, real worker tho, I bet, she has a feel for the work and where to look. Cute but not glamorous, hair done up, cap at a jaunty angle, nails done, greasy arms may be a bit even. I say the photog picked out a cute, cooperative gal and spent an hour or two taking this shot. The story is you can work hard, be competent at your job and still be cute. She looks Irish, kinda looks like my sister , BTW
It is a nice photo but a few points as to whether it is genuine or not:

wearing nail polish I think, was this prevalent in WW2?
nothing obviously on the faceplate.
No tools can be seen on the turret.
her hat's a bit too clean, (I'd expect to see fingermarks on an orange hat if her arms get that dirty)
The lathe looks freshly painted but dusty.

I'm sure someone will rebut these and also maybe say which make and model lathe it is.
The original Rosie the Riveter was from Ky. There was a documentary on Ky's KET and her daughter, I think, and some of the other women said that many times they wore nice cloths to work and even makup at times depending on the type job they did. Fingernail polish would not be unusual but the photo here does seem to be staged.
It is a nice photo but a few points as to whether it is genuine or not:

nothing obviously on the faceplate.
No tools can be seen on the turret.
I'm sure someone will rebut these and also maybe say which make and model lathe it is.
There are tools on at least 2 stations of the turret, the most visible of which is the adjustable boring tool (or sometimes called "slide tool"). It is curious nothing can be seen on the faceplate, although in theory she could be making a faceplate...in which case she could be drilling the center hole and it would be normal to not be able to see the drill chuck or MT adapter from this angle.

Lathe is Warner and Swasey no. 5.
The Picture can be found at Shorpy

The above picture and many other excellent works can be found at: http://www.shorpy.com/world-war-2-photos-wwii?page=1

There are sections on WWII, factory work, Civil war, aviation, rail and others. The high quality, high resolution pictures provide a glimpse into the past. I find the early color pictures particularly compelling. Color removes the abstraction from the WWII era and illustrates the world of my parents generation.

the Rosie The Riveter national park is in a old Ford car assembley plant in Richmond, California. This is next to the old kaiser shipyards that built liberty and victory ships. There is a victory ship restored for tours and cruises there as well. Not real sure what the plans are. The factory building used to be used by the university for book storage but they abandoned it after the last big quake, as unsafe. Thoughts are to make the muesum inside the 1/4 mile long assembley plant. This is a good place for a muesum since after the war this area was basically abandoned, so lots of buildings etc remain.

Bill D.


It would have been nice if Wikipedia wouldn't have hidden the photo credit.

Hollem, Howard R., photographer

Googling his name will turn up more of his work. From his work, it appears he was mostly a studio photographer. I personally like the industrial images Jack Delano made for the Farm Security Administration during the same era:


The library of congress recently set up a Flickr account, and posted several thousand copyright free photos from its files, including hundreds of WW2 industry shots, with lots of "Rosie the Riveter" pics. Most are clearly not posed, and a lot of em are very cool pictures, with foundries and factories.
And yes, many of the women are wearing lipstick and nail polish while working.
They may have been building bombers and ships, but they still wanted to look good...

Check em out here-
I vote staged - look at full size pic - all the dust behind the turret and on the crank housing
Re "staged"...probably, but so are most photos of this nature...so what ? Most likely a better photo because of some staging.
Heheheh, fingernail polish and lipstick... Suppose your wife or SO is the one in the pic. How many of them would head off to work, or ANYWHERE fo that matter without putting on makeup, getting the hair just right, nails touched up, etc....

Hell, my GF won't even go plant flowers in the yard without the daily ritual.

I feel sure this in indeed staged, too. No factory is going to tolerate a photographer taking up hours of valuable production time trying to get a shot on a working machine. No way they are going to let him get in the way of their people, either. I agree with milacron, though.. so what?

I do like the candid working shop shots better.
Staged or not there were millions of women in war industry and thousands of them worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard including three of my aunts. They may not have had the brute muscle for some of the work but only a small proportion of all the activities in ship building actually requires it. he balance of the production work could be done by women without a problem. Women are not squeamish, fearful or sissy. Some as brave as lions. My aunt Merla told me of a friend of hers whose job it was to enter compartments of battle damaged ships and clear them of corpses.

One of my best apprentices was Anne Lindberg. She was small but strong and agressive. She was once sent up the 13" dia bore of a tailshaft about 45 ft to inspect the "Bottle neck where the bore narrowed to about 8". I know about this because Anne asked me to tie the retrieving line to her ankles. She has plenty of air but Gad! The confinement!. She ran the big shaft lathes single handed which takes lots of muscle. It was hard work even for a 6 ft plus guy like me. When she needed to tighten the faceplate jaws she just got a long cheater on the chuck wrench so she could use her 110 lb weight to best advantage. My SWMBO Barbara can do anything mechanical I ask of her. She might not be interested in machinery but she can do any task I ask her to do if I show her what needs to be done.

All over US and England women did men's work veen the most fatiguing, grueling, and dirty. They did everything in aircraft production there was to do including ferry pilot. Ever see the movie "swingshift" with Goldie Hawn? Its backgroud is a pretty accurate depiction of life among women on the Home Front.

We had a tall skinny crane operator name Kay. She was a master on the high bay bridge crane. She could set a ship's propeller on the balancer without a jar. To see her walk the track girders 80 ft up half the length of the shop from the crane to the ladder was enough to make anyone cringe.

Nope: just because a "Rosie the Riviter" picture looks posed don't ever think women are the bottom of the industrial talent barrel. Men do not have a monopoly on "manly work". 99% of it could be done as well by women. If women ever found out how easy manly workwas, us men would be out of jobs and all that would be left for us to do is stud service and open jars of pickles.
ahem.... how would one apply for the job of former amentioned???
What, the pickle jar opener, or the stud? Or maybe you meant the easy, manly job?

Regardless of it being staged, it's a very beautiful photo and a testament to the photographer. Very crisp and clear.