These amazing photos show how American women took over the workforce during WWII and changed the face of US labor

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“Rosie the Riveter”
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Wikimedia Commons

“We can do it!”

That’s the slogan that appeared alongside fictional icon “Rosie the Riveter” during the famous WWII-era advertising campaign targeted toward American women on the home front.

“Rosie” was just one part of the US propaganda effort to encourage women to take on traditionally male-dominated occupations – especially in the field of war supply production – as mass conscription depleted the workforce.

The message took hold. By 1945, almost one out of four married women worked outside the home, according to History.com. However, once peace was restored, many women found themselves ousted from their wartime jobs.

Here are pictures of some of the real life women who helped make the war effort possible, all taken from 1941 to 1943. These images and captions are all courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Assembly and Repairs Department supervisor Virginia Young (right) lost her husband during the attack on Pearl Harbor. She watches as Ethel Mann (left) operates an electric drill.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Former housewife Lucile Mazurek assembles black-out lamps at Heil and Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Riveters work on a Liberator Bomber fuselage.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A worker uses a hand drill on a Vultee A-31 Vengeance dive bomber.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

National Youth Administration trainee Mildred Webb operates a cutting machine as part of her eight week apprenticeship.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Mechanic Mary Josephine Farley works on a Wright Whirlwind motor.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Dorothy Lucke took a job as a wiper at a railroad roundhouse in Clinton, Iowa.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Former University of Southern California sociology major Eloise J. Ellis (right) checks in with trainee Jo Ann Whittington (left) at the Naval Air Base in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Cowler Lorena Craig climbs up on a vessel at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A worker drills a wing bulkhead for a transport plane.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

An employee of North American Aviation, Inc., works on the landing gear mechanism of a P-51 fighter plane.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

An electronics technician checks on equipment at the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in Akron, Ohio.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A North American Aviation Inc. employee works on an airplane motor.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A riveter and her supervisor look over an airplane at the Naval Air Base in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Irene Bracker works at a roundhouse in Clinton, Iowa as a wiper.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Helen Ryan (top) and Agnes Cliemka (bottom) inspect gasoline trailers.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Two employees of North American Aviation, Inc., assemble a section of a wing for a P-51 fighter plane.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Rita Rodriguey works a horizontal milling machine.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Ex-department store sales clerk Beulah Faith operates a lathe machine at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A worker prepares metal parts on a masonite at North American Aviation, Inc. in Inglewood, California.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A worker at the Vilter Manufacturing Company files small gun parts.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Oyida Peaks trains to become a mechanic at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Former housewife Cabbie Coleman installs oxygen racks above the flight deck of an aircraft.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A Corpus Christi Naval Air Base employee works in the Assembly and Repair Department.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Eloise J. Ellis supervises cowler Cora Ann Bowen (left) at the Naval Air Base in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Marcella Hart takes a break from her job as a wiper at a roundhouse in Clinton, Iowa.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Helen Bray quit school to become a mechanic at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Wipers eat lunch at the Clinton, Iowa roundhouse.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A North American Aviation Inc. employee works on one of the motors for a B-25 bomber.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A worker assembles switch boxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Chain Belt Company gist inspector Mary Betchner fits a cutter into a 105 mm howitzer.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Cloe Weaver learns to operate the turntable at a railroad roundhouse in Clinton, Iowa.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A 24-year-old former housewife files small parts for M5 and M7 guns.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A riveter works on a bomber at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Sculptor Dorothy Cole converted her basement into a workshop to create parts for blood transfusion bottles.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A Consolidated Aircraft Corporation employee drills on a Liberator Bomber.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A worker inspects an M7 gun.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Mary Louise Stepan worked as a waitress before going to work at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

A Vultee employee worker touches up the U.S. Army Air Forces insignia on the side of the fuselage of a Vengeance dive bomber.

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.