Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, The

The mass media of the period is notoriously misleading when it comes the question of what kind of women took war jobs during WWII, and why they did it.

Fields used interviews with participants in wartime work and juxtaposed them with the "March of Time" reels and War Office rhetoric that offered patronizing praise to these women, while offering little else in terms of working conditions, wages, and child care.

The testimonials of women who lived "Rosie's" life during WWII give a first-hand account of the difficulty of the work they did, the dangerous conditions of the factories, and the camaraderie they enjoyed and cherish.

Five women (two white, three black) were selected from 700 preliminary interviews to be the focus of the memories of Rosie. Their shot-in-color interviews were interwoven with photographs, "March of Time" newsreel footage, and government propaganda shorts, often directly contradicting the information given in the latter two sources. There are also unpleasant tales that illustrate the extent to which those sources were misleading.

Attention is also paid to the post-war propaganda and narratives. The same media agents that urged women to enter the work force during the war bombarded women who worked after the war's end with the stigma of being unfeminine. The narratives and photographs and news footage are enhanced by popular period music.

The overwhelming majority of criticism reacted favorably to this documentary. Their commentary was somewhat uniform with respect to the credibility and personality that the articulate interviewees brought to the history lesson, and that the archival news footage and photography were well-chosen, adding emotional and factual support to the text where appropriate.

The film's shortcomings reside in the lack of discussion about the relationship between women and unions, and the interviewees' conflicts with the social forces that placed them back into the low-wage "domestic service" work.

Hence, Sue Davenport noted that she felt isolated from the five women. Because of this lack of delving into the "nitty gritty of the conflicts of capitalism and patriotism," the film doesn't serve as a commentary on the dynamics of history, and the ending leaves you without a connection to the women in the present struggle.


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