U.S. Department of Labor inducts the ‘Rosies’ into Labor Hall of Honor

NAOMI PARKER FRALEY, a woman thought to be the original Rosie the Riveter, died at age 96 in 2017. Parker-Fraley worked as a machinist at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, Calif., in 1943 when, at age 20, a photographer snapped a picture of her on the job. She was one of the first women to dedicate herself to war work.

Washington, DC – On Thursday, Sept. 10, the U.S. Department of Labor held a Hall of Honor induction ceremony for the “Rosies,” women who riveted, welded and played an instrumental role in winning World War II.

Women’s Bureau Director Laurie Todd-Smith said it was fitting to honor this special group of women during the Women’s Bureau’s centennial celebration.

“During one of the darkest points in world history, while millions of our citizens enlisted into military service, the ‘Rosies’ made sure that the industrial production of the United States properly supplied the armed services and our allies, and in turn helped defeat the Axis Powers,” Todd-Smith said. “Through their commitment to hard work, these women also made it clear that women could do the jobs that were often reserved for men, setting a lasting example for future generations of women workers.”

While millions of men deployed to the front lines, the Rosies maintained American war production by manufacturing the planes, ships, tanks, arms and munitions required to defeat the Axis powers in both the European and Pacific theaters. American production would not have been able to keep up with the needs of the war effort had these women not elected to work in factories that had typically employed male workers. Additionally, many women also assumed essential jobs as first responders such as fire fighters.

Over the years, a flurry of American women have been identified as the model for Rosie, the war worker of 1940s popular culture who became a feminist touchstone in the late 20th century.

Unsung for eight decades, some say the real Rosie the Riveter was a California waitress named Naomi Parker Fraley. Others say the name “Rosie” came from Rosalind Walter, who went to work in a Corsair factory in 1942. Rosie the Riveter also became closely associated with Rose Will Monroe, who worked as a riveter at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, building B-24 bombers for the U.S. Army Air Forces.

Most believe the real “Rosie” is every woman who toiled in manufacturing plants, wrapping their hair in bandanas so it wouldn’t get tangled in the machinery they used to make supplies for the military serving overseas.

Rosie became a household name due to the famous, archetypical depictions of Rosie the Riveter and her red bandana by Norman Rockwell in the Saturday Evening Post and due to J. Howard Miller’s famous “We Can Do It!” poster commissioned by Westinghouse.

It is estimated that between five and seven million women held war industry jobs during World War II, increasing the female work force to about 19 million. This permitted American industry to transform to war production rapidly, supplying not just our armed forces, but also the armed forces of the Allied powers.

The Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor was established in 1988 to honor Americans whose distinctive contributions have elevated working conditions, wages and overall quality of life for American families.

To learn more about the Women’s Bureau and their 100th Anniversary celebration visit: dol.gov/wb.


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