Jul 23, 2014
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Beyoncé posed as Rosie the Riveter in a photo that was posted to Instagram without a caption Tuesday.

We learned this from celebrity news website PopSugar, which speculated the star singer, who identifies herself as a feminist, was paying homage to Rosie the Riveter as a symbol of feminism. E! Entertainment called the image, “the ultimate feminist photo.”

But a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian doesn’t agree with that assessment, saying that while Rosie the Riveter “undoubtedly moved the feminist cause forward,” the image was not intended to promote feminism.

She writes:

“Rosie dates back to the second world war, a symbol inspired by the women who took up the factory and munitions jobs left behind by conscripted men…The bicep-curling version popular today was designed by a man, J Howard Miller, who took inspiration from tired, oil-covered workers but washed them down and dolled them up to produce his Rosie. Miller never intended his creation to be a symbol of female empowerment – she was used to encourage women to take up jobs in factories as part of their patriotic duty to the war effort.”

Was this assessment correct?

We called the experts at Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front Memorial National Park for their thoughts. A ranger told us that feminism did become part of Rosie the Riveter’s history, but not until well after the war.

“The poster got re-purposed in the 60s and 70s as a feminist icon of empowerment,” the ranger said. “But during the war it had a narrower and different purpose. It was about the war effort and about cooperation and production. It added women to the ‘we.’ So it was part of a campaign to get people to look past their differences and to join into a larger we.”

For more information, head over to the Rosie the Riveter National Park and brush up on some local history.



About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.