Real Life Rosie the Riveters


Rosie the Riveter and the iconic “We Can Do It” poster became a rallying cry for female participation in the workforce during World War 2.  The image not only inspired many women to enter the work force for the first time, but to gain employment in previously male dominated occupations.  Women have been breaking down barriers, expanding the roles allowed to them by society, and creating the momentum necessary for change since the founding of America’s republic.  Yet, few images better symbolize the call for equality and recognition of womanhood like that bandana-clad creation of the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee.  There is more to the story; however, as millions of real “Rosie the Riveters” answered their government’s call.  This lesson is about those women and their contributions to America’s victory in the Second World War.


30 Minutes

  • Students will be able to determine how individual women impacted America’s war effort during World War 2.
  • Students will be able to analyze how the economy during World War 2 impacted the women who participated in it.

Students should have a solid overview of women’s history and resistance to overt patriarchy in the United States, especially the Seneca Falls Convention, subsequent woman’s suffrage movement, and the Nineteenth Amendment’s passage.  In addition, students need to understand World War II’s outbreak and its effect on the US economy.


Teacher will need access to a projector for the “We Can Do It” poster.  Teachers will also require that students have access to computers or tablets for research on their subjects and the optional extension activity.


Teachers should split students into working groups of 3 to 4 students and task them with finding a real-life Rosie the Riveter from this link  The students need to find their woman before the next class period and email the teacher.  If there are duplicates, then the teacher must email that group and ask them to select another woman.  Teachers should suggest that students fully read through their woman and understand their story.

Opening Activity: 5 minutes:

To begin the lesson, the teacher needs to search for the famous image of Rosie the Riveter.  Project the image and ask the students the following questions.

Ask the students:

  1. Who is this person and what do you think that they represented?
  2. When do you think that this image was produced?
  3. What do you think was the purpose behind producing this image?

After you have discussed these questions and the student answers, inform the students that you will be learning about the lives of real American women who joined the workforce during World War 2 to support the war effort.  Rosie the Riveter became a symbol of American women’s efforts to defeat the Axis Powers came from the millions of women who answered their country’s call for service.  In this short lesson, students will be “meeting” some of these women.

Image(s) Links:

J. Howard Miller, “We Can Do It.”

Developmental Activity: 25 minutes:

The students will work cooperatively to complete a Jig Saw Activity.  First, begin by dividing the class into working groups of three to four students (this should already be done since the students should have selected their “Rosie”).  In this activity, students will rotate from table to table, about the women that they selected, and examine their contribution to the American war effort.


Allow 5 minutes for each group to read and review the details on their women’s experience during World War 2.  At the end of 5 minutes, two members of each group will remain at their designated table while the other group member(s) will move one-station-a-time to meet with the other groups.  Allow 3-5 minutes for each table discussion session.  Rotate groups every 3-5 minutes until every student has heard the content and discussed the questions for all the other groups.  It is important that students remain at their station until the teacher gives them the signal to rotate.  Failing to keep the groups in order might result in a disorganized activity.

Bring the students together for a whole group discussion.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were the major contributions women made to the war effort and America’s economic success during World War II?
  2. How did their employment during World War 2 impact these women?
  3. Do you believe, we as Americans, do enough to remember their contribution?  Why or why not?
Assessment / Homework

Optional Closing Activity/Assessment/Extension Activity: 25 minutes or Homework:

As a closing assignment, every student will attempt to put themselves into the shoes of women that worked to propel the American war effort.


  • Pretend you are a female factory worker in August 1945 (the war just ended) and you need to write a letter to a member of your family about your experiences.  In your letter, tell your family member about your experiences.  What did you do during the war?  Where did you work?  What did you produce? How did your experience change you?  How did you feel about your newfound independence?  How will this experience change your outlook on the future?  What are you going to do next?
  • Consider these questions, and any more that you might think of, as you write to your family member and detail your life during the war.

(This assignment can be done at the end of class or for homework)

Future Research / Resources

J. Howard Miller, “We Can Do It.”

“Rosie Stories.”


Common Core Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

C3 Standards:

  • D1.5.9-12. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.
  • D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
  • D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past.