The Real Rosie the Riveters Finally Get Their Time in the Spotlight

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2019

Kate Patterson, San Francisco Public Library
(415) 557-4252 / kate.patterson@sfpl.org

The Real Rosie the Riveters Finally Get Their Time in the Spotlight

San Francisco Main Library Jewett Gallery Opens Remarkable WWII Rosie Featuring 60 Images and Stories from the Women who Helped Win the War

San Francisco – Local artist and curator Carol Witten became fascinated with Rosie the Riveter when she met Rosie. Her interest turned into a passion and for three years she made it her mission to travel the country capturing the images and stories of the Rosies, many of whom in their 90s and 100s, whose contributions were essential to winning World War II, but are largely unknown and under celebrated. Remarkable WWII Rosie, on view starting November 9 at the San Francisco Main Library Jewett Gallery, invites visitors to experience the courage and heroism of these trailblazers who opened the door to the emancipation of women and their participation in the workforce.

“This exhibition beautifully reveals Carol Witten’s style of combining traditional portraiture with narrative. Through the women’s stories, we hear the hammers and watch the soot fall as Rosie reveals the danger, sexism and racism she endured and overcame to become an American feminist icon,” says San Francisco Public Library Curator Joan Jasper.

Between 1942 and 1945, millions of women mobilized and joined the war effort building some 297,000 airplanes, billions of rounds of ammunition, 757 Liberty Ships, 102,000 tanks and 88,000 ships. When the deadliest conflict in human history came to an end on August 15, 1945, Rosies were handed a pink slip and encouraged by the government to return to work in the home. The records of their historical contributions all but disappeared or were destroyed until the 1960s when, inspired by Betty Friedan’s revolutionary Feminine Mystique, women started to reclaim their history and assert that the war would not have been won without Rosie.

According to Witten, “My goal for this exhibition is to raise awareness about their immeasurable contribution to society and to garner them the recognition and honor they deserve.”

As Remarkable WWII Rosie chronicles, in the 90s, through a second wave of activism, more permanent tributes to Rosie emerged. After years of silence, Navy Certified Journeyman Welder Phyllis Gould and her fellow riveter Mae Krier, whose portrait is in the show, lobbied Congress to recognize Rosie. Thanks to their efforts, since 2016 Congress set aside March 21 as National Rosie Day. Mae and Phyllis continue to lobby for a permanent national holiday and the Congressional Medal of Freedom.

Realizing that there is still a sizeable community of WWII Rosies in her district, Richmond City Councilwoman Donna Power lobbies Congress and mounts a grassroots campaign to establish The Rosie the Riveter Visitors Center under the National Park Service and erect the nation’s first Rosie the Riveter Memorial. On the east coast, Dr. Frances Carter, herself a riveter, founds the American Rosie Riveter Association in 1998 as a forum for Rosies to connect with one another and share wartime experiences. Today, the organization has over 5,000 members scattered throughout the country and inspires new generations to fall in love with WWII Rosie.

EXHIBITION DETAILS:

World War II icon Rosie the Riveter has held the American imagination for over half a century. In a new exhibition, Remarkable WWII Rosie, local artist Carol Witten shows 60 digital prints (diptychs) developed from her travels cross country to Rosie Conventions and local Rosie Rallies. Witten’s works are composed from interviews and photographs of women, now 90- and 100-years-old and over, who built the planes, ships and ammunition that enabled America to win the War.

On view Nov. 9–Jan. 26, 2020, Main Library, Jewett Gallery

Opening event and discussion with photographer Carol Witten – Nov. 23, 3p.m., Main Library, Jewett Gallery

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