Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter: the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé's picture of the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment quickly became the most popular photo on her Instagram account to date, amassing more than a million "likes"

With her red headscarf, brown curl and determined expression, Rosie the Riveter is the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment. Now Beyoncé has posted a picture to Instagram of herself dressed up as the Second World War poster girl. It quickly became the most popular photo on her account to date, amassing more than a million "likes".

Rosie emerged in the Forties to cheer on women who replaced male workers who had gone to war, and has captivated us ever since.

The term "Rosie the Riveter" first appeared in a 1942 song about an energetic female assembly worker, and any number of Roses, Rosies and Rosalinds who worked at aircraft manufacturers at the time have been attributed as the inspiration for the writers.

The famous picture, however, is said to be of Geraldine Doyle, who was working as a metal presser in Ann Arbor when a photographer visited and snapped some of the women. The image made its way to the graphic artist J Howard Miller, who reimagined it as a poster for Westinghouse Electric Company. Contrary to popular opinion, the image was not commissioned by the American government, and it was never intended for public view. It was only ever displayed on the walls of Westinghouse's Midwest plants in 1943 to boost morale.

Doyle discovered that she had appeared in the posters only in the Eighties, when they started to be used in connection with women's equality in the workplace. They subsequently became associated with feminism, and the image was incorrectly referred to as Rosie the Riveter. It has stuck ever since.

The original poster. Rosie was a Michigan factory worker The original poster. Rosie was a Michigan factory worker
"It's become such an important image," says Deborah Coughlin, a former editor of the Feminist Times. "It shows a woman who is powerful, strong and working in a man's world. I'm not surprised that Beyoncé wants to embody all the aspects of that image because that's what she's trying to get across in her music and her career."

Bey joins a number of other women who have dressed up as Rosie in recent years. Pink, Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), and Marge Simpson have all donned the denim shirt and raised their arm in solidarity with female struggle.

Read more: Beyonce shares Fifty Shades of Grey trailer teaser
MTV VMAs nominations: Beyonce and Eminem lead shortlist
Beyoncé and Jay Z reveal intimate wedding footage
Beyoncé, Blue Ivy and Change.org: What's hair got to do with it?

Today, you can buy Rosie costumes in fancy-dress shops. Escapade in London's Camden does a nice line in Rosie outfits complete with denim shirt, wig, and knotted headscarf (bulging bicep not included). The store's manager, Luke Potter, says: "It's one of the more popular costumes. People really like Blitz parties and so a lot of women go as Rosie."

Emily Reynolds, who runs the feminist blog Diet of Broken Biscuits, was so taken with Rosie that she recently had her tattooed alongside the word "feminist" on her thigh.

Emily Reynolds' tattoo. 'I feel like it really communicates something basic about feminism,' said the feminist blogger Emily Reynolds' tattoo. 'I feel like it really communicates something basic about feminism,' said the feminist blogger
"I thought that she was a beautiful way to represent my feminist beliefs," says Reynolds. "I love the 'power stance' she's doing; I feel like it really communicates something basic about feminism, even to someone who might not know who Rosie is. For me, feminism is about fighting. I know a little bit about her but it's less the specifics and more what she symbolises."

Coughlin agrees it's a shame that Rosie's story isn't better known, despite her image being widely associated with female strength. "It's great we have something iconic, but how iconic is it really? I didn't get taught about women like Rosie at school or university. But there aren't many female heroes so I suppose we're holding on to this one. Maybe Beyoncé will bring the image to a new generation. And maybe this time the next generation will know more about her than we do."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones