Tag: War Advertising Council

Rosie the Riveter- Just Your Average Advertising Story by Brittany N. Cozzens

To me, the more and more I read on Maureen Honey’s “Creation of the Myth” on Rosie the Riveter, the more I began to question Rosie as a true American Icon and more of an American Farce. Defining an American Icon in the beginning of the semester we learned that an iconic image is “wholly exceptional and has levels of widespread recognizability; moved beyond its original purpose; is in fact original and moved to a point of celebrity; and has the attraction of a cult following”. While I think that most may agree that Rosie possesses these types of characteristics, I believe she does so in the sense that she was specifically made TO BECOME an icon, which to me breaks the #1 rule of iconicity- she isn’t original or authentic.  Rosie the Riveter, in my opinion, was just a successful advertising campaign.

In “Creation of the Myth,” we obtain a very detailed understanding of how Rosie came to be. During WWII, we see that the Office of War Information (OWI), the Bureau of Campaigns, and War Advertising Council (WAC) work to create a “Women in the War” campaign in 1944 that encourages women to enter the work force in an array of different jobs. A man instrumental in pushing government officials to this idea was Chester La Roche, the chair of the WAC. Now, La Roche isn’t your typical Don Draper; his intent was to get the rest of the government on board to wage psychological warfare via all media outlets and “threaten the public with the loss of loss of political freedoms”. (I know sounds American right? ) He truly believed that if the government didn’t use these types of methods that the American public wouldn’t cooperate.  From here we then see the launch of a nation wide advertising campaign set with a manipulative manual War Guide for Advertisers that outlines where and how to advertise.  In 1942 the campaign took off and La Roche’s plan of utilizing all media outlets really set sail with the addition of Magazine Bureau. Propaganda in magazines was present in the photos, the storylines, and articles on women in different industries and basically the whole magazine. Fiction writers were a huge addition into the OWI campaign efforts in order to make “war work sound attractive to women readers.” For years, media industries worked solely to convince women in every way that working during the war was a glamorous and fun thing to do through these magazines.

When government and fiction align is when we should start to realize there is a problem.  La Roche and the WAC probably created one of histories most strategic, elaborate, and effective advertising campaigns. And Rosie was all a part of that manipulative plan.

As an advertising student, I see Rosie the Riveter as successful art direction. I don’t see her as an American Icon because she is based off of a propaganda media blast in order for the government to control citizens. America is supposed to be land of the free and home of the brave, where citizens work hard because they want to not because they are manipulated to. Everything about this ad campaign points to a dictatorship of citizens through media rather than a democracy. To me, she is no truer than those tabloids you see about celebrities in the grocery store. Yes, her image was made famous but not in an honest or American way. She doesn’t truly represent the feminist women either because she was enacted as a plan to control women psychologically. Iconicity lends itself to being formed through a societal need, but Rosie was created to be an icon in order to sell the government’s product (the workforce) during that time.