Kit Steinkellner
September 05, 2014 1:58 pm

I was SUPER jazzed to see that Business News Daily recently compiled some gorgeous-pants colorized photographs of women at work during World War II. The photos were all taken from the Library of Congress archives. Not only are these pictures bee-yoo-tee-ful, they’re also deeply powerful and incredibly inspiring.

Here’s what I love about these images. They remind us that Rosie the Riveter (you know, sleeves rolled up, rocking the red bandanna, “We Can Do It,” THAT Rosie) wasn’t just a wartime effort illustration that is still being slapped up on college bedroom walls and Instagrammed by celebs seventy years later. Rosie the Riveter was a real woman. She was millions of real women.

As a result of millions of men being sent overseas into combat during WWII, women swarmed the workplace during the wartime years. According to The Encyclopedia of American Economic History between 1940 and 1944, the number of working women rose from 12 million to 20 million. That’s a 57% increase. Hot diggity dog, that’s killer diller! (As they would have said during the 1940s, oh man I wish slang was still cool.) During wartime, women were given the opportunity to do a “man’s job” and proved they were 100% capable. Between January and July of 1942, the estimates of jobs that employers deemed “appropriate for women” rose from 29% to 85%. These are CRAZY numbers, because these were CRAZY times, and American women were CRAZY showing up and CRAZY getting the job done.

I’m not saying all was peace and love and rainbows and gender equality on the home front. The pay was not at all equal (the average wage for a man working at a wartime plant was $54.65 a week, for women, that average weekly wage dropped down to $31.50). And after the war, the gender stats in the workplace largely reverted to what they had been before the war, and women had to wait until the 1970s to really flood the workplace again. Still, it was WWII that made the American working woman an actual thing in the public mind, and this phenomenon really opened the door for working women. Yes, a lot of women didn’t step through that door for several decades, but the fact remains that door was opened, and we have the millions upon millions of Rosie the Riveters to thank for that.

Here’s a look at some of these amazing women at work:

Images via