During the Second World War as men went off to fight in the European or Pacific Theater, there was a shortage of labor at home in the United States. This opened the door for women to fill positions that were traditionally performed by men. In Norman Rockwell's picture Rosie the Riveter, Rockwell portrays a woman who has taken the job of riveter because the men were off fighting in the war. The position of a riveter was also extremely important at this time because of the need to help the war effort in the defense, aviation, and other critical sectors.
Rockwell portrays Rosie as a strong woman. Her arms appear very powerful. Yet, at the same time, she is still attractive and feminine looking. The woman wears lipstick and has her hair curled, even as her riveting tool lies across her lap.
Rockwell’s illustration of Rosie the Riveter was the centerpiece of a government-sponsored campaign to recruit women to work in defense and aviation industries during the war. Rosie was a particularly iconic character that encouraged woman to join the workforce.
Rockwell's illustration came out in 1943, the same year that a "Rosie the Riveter" song came out. The multimedia campaign proved successful. From 1940 to 1945, the percentage of women in the domestic workforce rose from about 27% to almost 37%. By 1945, almost 25% of all married women worked outside the home in some capacity.
Once the war ended and the men returned home, however, there was no longer the need to retain women in the workforce. The women who had substituted for men largely were removed from their positions to make room for the returning veterans.