Rosie the Riveter

Redd Evans, John Jacob Loeb, 1942

What is unusual about the accompaniment in this song? Voices imitate instruments. What "instruments" can you hear? Bass, trumpet, tuba, etc. What other vocal sounds can you hear? Rivet gun, imitation scat.

What is this song about? Women in defense jobs. What was Rosie making? Aircraft (fuselage). What reasons are given for her working? Patriotic duty, protecting Charlie. Why doesn't it mention wages?

What does "she's making history" mean? What was historic about what Rosie was doing? Didn't women ever work outside the home before? Poor women worked in textile and garment industries, but not heavy industry.

What role did this song and the poster "We can do it" play in the mobilization effort in 1942? Made it acceptable for women to do men's work. What word is used to describe art forms meant to persuade? Propaganda. Where do you see propaganda today? Is propaganda necessarily bad? Why?

What happened to all the "Rosies" when the men returned? Most went home. Was this by choice? They were laid off and discriminated against; strongly urged to go back home.

What did "Rosie the Riveter" symbolize during the war? Total mobilization. What has she come to symbolize since the war? Women can do anything men can do.

"Rosie the Riveter" performed by the Four Vagabonds on Jive is Jumpin' RCA and Bluebird Vocal Groups, 1939-52, London: Westside [WESA813], © 1998. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

The Four Vagabonds modeled themselves after the popular Mills Brothers, another African American vocal quartet. They were featured on several popular Midwest radio shows in the 1930s and 40s. This recording is an excellent example of their style of close four-part harmony and vocally imitating the sounds of instruments. In "Rosie the Riveter," they imitate trombones, bass, and even the sound of a rivet gun, but not the ukulele that accompanies the song.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

Sheet music cover for "Rosie the Riveter."

Redd Evans (1912–72) wrote another song related to the War: "He's 1-A in the Army and He's A-1 in My Heart" in 1941, while John Jacob Loeb (1910–70) is known primarily for this song. "Rosie the Riveter" was composed in 1942 and first released in February 1943. There was no real person by that name for which the song was composed, rather the title was selected because of its alliteration, according to John Jacob Loeb's widow (Colman, p. 15 ). The song was so successful that it inspired Norman Rockwell to paint his conception of "Rosie the Riveter" for the cover of the May 29, 1943, issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The model for the cover was 19-year old Mary Doyle, a telephone operator in Arlington, Vermont.

The song originally began with these words (left out in this recording):

  While other girls attend a favorite cocktail bar,
Sipping dry martinis, munching caviar;
There's a girl who's really putting them to shame—
Rosie is her name.

In what jobs are women "making history" today? Write lyrics, to this tune or another, about this work.

Ask family and friends if anyone knows a "Rosie the Riveter." Interview her about her work.

J. Howard Miller's "E" awards: Awards given for "effort" to encourage high production rates during the war.






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