We’ve seen her everywhere: in textbooks, in Norman Rockwell works, and, perhaps famously, in J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It.” Since her birth in the 1940s, Rosie the Riveter has become a cultural icon and a familiar face of the feminist cause, and is used still to promote (and parody) the can-do attitude for which she became so famous.
Now, 70 years later, 48 real Rosies are telling their own stories. Filmmakers Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly of Spargel Productions, along with writer Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, interviewed the original Riveters, working women during World War II who are now in their eighties and nineties. The project, done in collaboration with NYU’s Tamiment Library, tells tales of what it was like doing so-called “men’s work.” As Hemmerdinger affirms, “They don’t talk just about walking into the factory. We get their whole lives. We get stories of the Depression; of racial, class and gender divides –a story of America.”
It is estimated that during World War II there were between 8 and 16 million women employed in the shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing, automobile, and transportation industries. The opportunity to take on work in critical trades gave many women independence and economic power, and it is estimated that women comprised over one-third of the workers in these industries during wartime.
The Real Rosie the Riveter Project attempts to introduce us to the original Riveters. Not only does it reveal personal stories and struggles, but the efforts of feminism and of a nation at war.
The project was conceived when Hemmerdinger was a student at Tisch, and attempted to do some background research for her MFA thesis play, We Can Do It! She began looking through Tamiment’s archives, and found surprisingly little primary source material about the Rosies. She decided that interviewing them would fill an unfortunate gap in the archives.
With the help of Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly, Hemmerdinger began asking around to find real Rosies to interview. After placing an ad in the Michigan Library Association’s newsletter, Hemmerdinger and the filmmakers received hundreds of responses from women eager to share their stories.
Many Rosies have been interviewed by Spargel Productions over the past two years, and will appear in a 2013 documentary based on the project’s findings. The interviews are also available online.
Hemmerdinger says of the project, “We made these stories of our forgotten WWII Rosie heroes available to the public in the hope that people will utilize this archive to teach.” Adds Michael Nash, head of the Taniment Library, “This intimate look at the lives of women who joined the war effort is an invaluable cultural and historical document.”
Read more: Voices Behind The Icon: The Real Rosie The Riveter Project · NYU Local http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2012/01/25/real-rosie-the-riveter-project-gives-voices-to-women-behind-the-icon/#ixzz28uZholdl
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