Rosalind P. Walter, the first “Rosie the Riveter,” died at the age of 95 in her Manhattan home on March 4.
Walter became the inspiration behind the name “Rosie the Riveter” when the 19-year-old worked on an assembly line during World War II, driving rivets into Corsair fighter planes at a Connecticut plant to help aid troops – a job primarily reserved for men.
Walter grew up in a wealthy family home in Long Island. Yet when the United States entered World War II, she chose to join millions of other women in the home-front crusade to arm the troops with munitions, warships and aircraft.
A newspaper column about her inspired a morale-boosting 1942 song that turned her into the legendary Rosie the Riveter, the archetype of the hard-working women in overalls and bandanna-wrapped hair who kept the military factories humming.
Written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb and popularized by the Four Vagabonds, the bandleader Kay Kyser and others, “Rosie the Riveter” captured a historical moment that helped sow the seeds of the women’s movement of the last half of the 20th century. It began:
All the day long whether rain or shine
she’s a part of the assembly line
She’s making history,
working for victory —
Rosie, brrrrr, the Riveter
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do, more than a male can do —
Rosie, brrrrr, the Riveter.
Walter was seen as an icon for women everywhere who were joining the workforce to help keep military factories afloat. Other women later modeled for Rosie posters and newspaper covers. After the war, the image Walter inspired became a symbol for working women.
In addition to her success as Rosie, Walter was a philanthropist and one of PBS’s principal benefactors with her name on the works of “American Masters,” “PBS Newshour,” “Nature” and documentaries by Ken and Ric Burns.
(Information from KMOX, PBS and the New York Times.)