Want to Create the “We Can Do It!” Look? Check this out.

by Matilda Butler on August 2, 2017

Post #84. Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

How to Get the Rosie the Riveter Look!

It’s easy. We can show you how we got the “We Can Do It!” look.

It all started back in 2007 when Kendra and I wrote what became the award-winning collective memoir Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story. At that time, we had no idea that we’d be helping thousands of women recreate the Rosie the Riveter look of a strong, courageous, empowered, creative, resourceful woman.

ITEM #1: Rosie’s Bandana

It all began with a red and white polka dot bandana, just like the one that Rosie wore in the “We Can Do It!” poster.

Well, actually, it began when Kendra and I were invited to give presentations about our collective memoir Rosie’s Daughters. We thought it would be fun to wear a polkadot bandana. How hard could it be to find one?

Without going into all the details, it was basically impossible. Why? In the poster, Rosie’s bandana had large polka dots and they were displayed in a random pattern. Everything we could find had small polka dots and were orderly organized in rows and columns. Ugh. Rosie just wasn’t going to be put in a rigid pattern! So we decided to have a few red bandanas silk screened with white polkadots in the random pattern shown in Rosie’s poster. We did and it was fun to have something fairly close to the look we all know from the We Can Do It! World War II poster.

Then, once we got into the nitty gritty of this Rosie the Riveter look, we found that typical bandanas are 22″ x 22″ while Rosie’s was 27″ x 27″ — a size mandated by the Department of the Army. It’s the bigger size that makes it possible to easily tie the bandana around the head like Rosie did. No one wanted the women in the factories to get their hair caught in machinery so bandanas were often compulsory. And the Women Ordnance Workers (WOW) had to be doubly careful since static electricity could cause explosions. Keeping hair under a headscarf was the obvious solution.

Back to the making of our Rosie’s Legacy Bandana. Our early silk screened bandanas were fun to have. When we gave presentations about our book, we often got requests to purchase a bandana just like ours. So we have more made up and they began to sell quite well. We kept looking for ways to make a better bandana. It took us a couple of years to get everything just right — the size of the polka dots, the randomness of the pattern, the correct dimensions of the bandana, …and… finally, fabric made just for us. You can’t imagine how relieved we were to no longer have to rely on silk-screening because there simply are no screens that allowed us to print edge to edge as we now have with our soft, 100% cotton bandanas. We keep the fabric thin so that the white polkadots are visible from both sides and so the bandana is easy to tie in the necessary knot. We tried all kinds of fabric over the years and are thrilled with what we now have.

Click here if you are interested in the Rosie bandana.

For a while, we thought this was the end of the “We Can Do It!” look.

ITEM #2: Rosie’s Employment Badge/Collar Pin

But the Rosie Bandana wasn’t the end. Women, happy with their polkadot bandana, started asking us if we knew where they could find the collar pin shown on Rosie in the J. Howard Miller poster.

Take a look at the “We Can Do It!” poster. Rosie proudly displays her employment badge. She couldn’t get into work each day without wearing it. J. Howard Miller, as you probably know, was the graphic artist who drew the “We Can Do It!” poster. He had been hired by the Westinghouse Company to create a series of motivational posters that would only be displayed in the various Westinghouse factories. Each was to be displayed for two weeks. It made perfect sense for him to use one of these Westinghouse employment badges in his poster.

Again, we started researching the badges. When World War II ended, most women were given pink slips and told to turn in their employment badges as their help was no longer needed. Jobs were to go to returning veterans. Fortunately for all of us, a few women kept their badges to honor their war work and we were able to find a few (alas, a very few) on the Internet. Initially, we were able to create a pin that was similar. We designed a pin just like the actual ones worn in the Westinghouse Electric Service factory. Then we used the drawing of Rosie from the poster as the face of the employee to display. And since the artwork was done in 1942 (and displayed in February of 1943), we used 1942 as the employee number.

We were excited to offer women a collar pin made using our artwork printed on clear acetate that allowed the brushed steel of the button to show through. We loved the effect and so did the many women who purchased this item.

BUT, we knew that the real badges were made of metal and were three dimensional…not flat. We kept looking for someone who could help us make a Rosie the Riveter Employment Badge / Collar Pin that would be historically accurate. We’ve finally had success and can offer the second important item in creating the “We Can Do It!” look.

Now, our Rosie Employment Badge Collar Pins are:

• Made using 3-dimensional, molded and embossed metal
• Hand-colored using enamel cloisonné technology (each
one is slightly different, part of the hand process)
• Designed with a photo-etched screen print of Rosie’s image
covered with clear coating
• Sized with 1.25″ diameter (just like Rosie’s original)
• Attached with single post/butterfly clutch fastener
• Delivered on a full-color, commemorative card

Click here if you are interested in the Rosie Collar Pin / Employment Badge.

Now you have the two critical elements to create the “We Can Do It!” look!

What about the times when Rosie worked?

I recently found a photo showing that oranges in 1942 were selling for a penny each. Probably a special sale, but it certainly peaked my interest. So I did a little research that I thought I’d share with you.

In 1942:

New homes cost between $3770 and $6950
Average wages ran between $1800 and $2400 per year
Gas cost between 15 cents and 19 cents per gallon
Rent for a house was about $35 per month
Coke cost 5 cents a (glass) bottle
A new car cost between $920 and $1100
Bread could usually be found for 9 cents a loaf
Milk, meanwhile ran between 12 cents and 60 cents a gallon
Postage was just 3 cents a letter
The stock market? It was around 119.

As more and more materials were needed for the war effort, everyone was asked to donate scrap metal and scrap fabrics. There were regular scrap days and schools were often the donation site. Reports show that many children brought up to 10 pounds of metal weekly.

Oh, By the Way…

During the month of August (2017), we have a special sale on our Rosie Combo that gives you a great price on the combination of a Rosie the Riveter bandana and our Rosie the Riveter Collar Pin / Employment Badge.

Click here, if you are interested.

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