As we watch the number of Pearl Harbor survivors dwindle, we also bid farewell to other icons of the Second World War. The latest World War II hero to pass away wasn’t a member of the Armed Forces that fought in Europe or the Pacific. On the contrary, she became a beloved symbol of many who were joining the war effort on the home front. On March 4, 2020, Rosalind P. Walter (nee Palmer) died at her New York City home at the age of 95. While the name may not ring a bell initially, it’s likely you’ve heard of Rosie the Riveter, symbol of the millions of women who went to work in factories across the United States in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war that followed.
The Inspiration for Rosie the Riveter
Rosalind Palmer took a job as a night-shift assembly line worker at the Sikorsky aircraft plant in Bridgeport, CT. Prior to the outbreak of the war, it was uncommon for women to be a part of the industrial workforce, but with millions of men mobilized for military service, there was a huge shift in the role of women.
“Rosie the Riveter” was first mentioned in a popular song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, which was inspired by the story of Rosalind Palmer. The song followed the title character, an assembly line worker who was doing her part to help in the American war effort. Though several women have been pegged as inspirations for Rosie the Riveter, it was a story in the New York Times about Palmer and her work on the F4U Corsair fighter that caught the attention of Evans and Loeb.
Rosalind Palmer was only 19 years old when she started working at the Sikorsky plant. Prior to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, women were mainly expected to be homemakers. It was rare to find women working on assembly lines and in factories. When the attack propelled the United States into war, with its wholesale the enlistment of young men, factories suddenly found themselves in desperate need of workers.
Women like Rosalind Palmer stepped up to do their part, and her work became an inspiration to many women across the United States. After the song was released, Rosie the Riveter became an iconic figure that represented women in the workforce. Rosie was a symbol of feminism in the United States and an embodiment of female empowerment.
Rosalind Walter After the War
After her time in the workforce during World War II, Rosalind Palmer Walter became an American philanthropist, and worked with many charitable organizations. She supported several PBS programs and documentaries, worked in wildlife preservation, fought for land conservation, and served on the board of the United States Tennis Association.
Like the survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, who were forever remembered for their bravery, Rosalind Walter will live on as a symbol of strength and determination for women in the United States and around the world. The war may long be over, but the impact of Rosie the Riveter is as strong as ever.