Rosie the Riveter: The Legacy of an American Icon

Imprint. Sept. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250774507.
Gr 2-4–This book traces the origin and lasting impact of the Rosie the Riveter symbol, from factory work during World War II to the contemporary workplace. The text often speaks of Rosie as a real person, mentioning that she was “born” in 1942, which may confuse young readers who don’t yet understand that she was an image, not an individual. The symbolism is heavy-handed throughout. In one instance, the text says that during wartime the men were “taking the rivets out of the world” while Rosie was riveting “a ship or a bridge or maybe even a world.” This is rather reductive as both the men and the women were working on behalf of the same war effort. Partway through, the narrative changes focus from the singular “Rosie” figure to “Rosies” as representing all women, specifically contemporary women doing jobs that were once restricted to men. Where the book stumbles is in trying to give Rosie partial credit for the achievements of women throughout history. In one spread, a stream of significant female figures, both historic and contemporary, are depicted. While the message is that the spirit of Rosie has always been present in the world’s strong and independent women, it doesn’t work to imply that a white WWII media image was party to helping women of color, such as Harriet Tubman, break barriers. The occasionally clumsy execution aside, the idea that all women are “Rosies” and have a fighting spirit is an inspiring one for young readers. Back matter includes more detailed informational content regarding gender inequities in the workplace, including today’s gender wage gap. It also further investigates the various media portrayals of Rosie during World War II.
VERDICT A heavily symbolic ode to an American cultural icon.

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