The Real-Life Rosie the Riveters

Added on by Erick Grau.

Some of us (ok, I mean me) totally fetishize the elderly. I'm always nudging grandmothers for stories about their youths, seeing in a grouchy senior citizen's frown a lifetime of hardwon wisdom. I seek out antique rings and vintage old-lady handbags, and my husband and I have puzzled our extended family by actually wanting the art deco bedroom set his grandparents bought when they were first married. ("'s really old! We were going to throw it out!") So I was extra excited to peruse the excellent new The Real Rosie the Riveter project. Videos of elderly women reminiscing about their nontraditional youths? I'm all over that like cold cream on a septuagenarian's cheeks.

In this project, Spargel Productions, Providence Productions and New York University’s Tamiment Library teamed up to interview dozens of women who found themselves taking on traditionally male work during World War II. The women describe the unexpected turns their lives took when they began working outside of the home in defense factories. Then they flex their muscles and proclaim that they are women, we should hear them roar, and that being called upon to do men's work infinitely opened up the possibilities their lives offered. Well, maybe not. Actually, while the women are good-humored and insightful, they by and large seem pretty matter-of-fact about the direction their lives took. They were called upon to do something extraordinary, to leave their comfort zones and work in ways they'd never imagined. Factories jobs weren'tt always pleasant but as one of the women interviewed, Esther Horne, said, "You felt you were doing it for the war." 

The Real Rosie The Riveter Project (trailer) from Spargel Productions on Vimeo.

While the project's tendency (as realistically, my own) is to lionize these women as unappreciated war heroes, and while that's certainly a noble idea, what I love about watching these videos is seeing how the stories just became part of the women's lives. How, like women everywhere, they worked hard, they worked together, they did their duty. When the men came back from the war, as the world now knows, these bad**s women were expected to head back to their domestic roles. Which are really no less heroic, and even more unappreciated. And in that way (and sans cool utility aprons and goggles) we are all Rosie the Riveter.

Read More:
Life Lessons from Borrowed Grandparents
What Scares Women About Growing Older

Topics: WorkHappiness

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