Rosie the Riveter Poster - A Visual Rhetoric Analysis


A visual rhetoric is a photo or a short video that is used to convey a message to a particular group of people. It is the method of deriving meaning from images in the same way as one can deduce meaning from verbal or audio messages, and it can be considered a change in people's perceptions of pictures. They used to be used mostly for decorative purposes to impress the eye, but now they can also express emotions. The underlying truth is that the image's shape, color, type, scale, and other aspects are not chosen at random. Instead, the author selects them on purpose, and visual rhetoric analysis is the mechanism by which the author's thoughts on a given piece are exposed.

Application in Different Fields

Artwork is an avenue in which various individuals showcase their abilities to connect reality and fiction. Rosie the Riveter Poster is such an outstanding art that not only serves an aesthetic function but also passes a specific message to its audience. This form of analysis finds application in many fields including art history, linguistics, business, and technical communication. Another popular occurrence of visual rhetoric is in the advertising industry. The purpose of any piece put to display as an advertisement is to build an argument for the product in question and convince the reader or listener of its quality and performance. For that matter, the people who come into contact with the images have to build a relationship with them. Otherwise, the message becomes arbitrary. Therefore, three characteristics are important: that the image should be symbolic, be to a specific audience and for the purpose of passing a message, and have human intervention.

Visual Rhetoric Analysis: Rosie the Riveter Poster

The visual rhetoric analysis below is about the "we can do it!" war poster which came to be commonly referred to as Rosie the Riveter. The Rosie character was at the time a cultural icon representing the ideology of the inclusion of women in the wartime workforce not as militants, but in the regular jobs. Today, the icon very well represents the feminist view, defending, and liberating women in their areas of oppression and inequality. The poster dates back to 1942 by a freelance artist known as J. Howard Miller. The Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company commissioned the advertisement. It was a part of a large commission of advertisements by the War Production Coordinating Committee of the company. The main aim of the poster was to convey the American ideology of patriotism, especially during the time of the war. Moreover, it was to encourage hard work and the inclusion of everybody in the efforts towards the war regardless of gender (Kimble and Olson 534). During this time, America was deep in the world war. Young men were sent to fight for their country overseas leaving behind mostly the women, children, and the elderly. The departure of the men left many jobs unattended, which only meant that the women were to do them. However, the majority of the women themselves had not worked beyond the confines of their homes their entire lives. The goal of this campaign was to convince the women to take up the jobs and be part of the war. Moreover, though a majority of the men agreed to the idea, some needed to be persuaded. Therefore, the poster mainly targeted the women and then to a lesser extent the men who were yet to be comfortable with the idea of women working outside their homes.

The Core Knowledge for Analysis

The core knowledge that is required to analyze this art is that of the Second World War. Any audience of this piece of art has to fully apprehend the role that female factory workers played before delving into the analysis of the words used in this art. The white or negative space used in this text was intended to enhance the readability of the text "we can do it" and to enhance the aesthetics of the picture. The amazing effect of the use of light was to demonstrate the hope that the female factory workers had on their men who had gone to the war. The bright yellow color signified optimism that all would be well in the event. The image used in Rosie the Riveter is large while the wording used is small. The artist may have wanted his audience to first assess the image of the lady before looking at what she stated. The impact of this arrangement is that it brings more focus on the image than the words. However, the light color of the words in front of the black background of the dialogue box also sheds some emphasis on the phrase. The viewer of this art is outside. The artist might have made this intentionally so that the main focus can be on the artwork. There is nothing missing from the art apart from a well-developed frame which might have made it more appealing. The amazing effect of the poster was to instill a "we can do it" spirit of the women who before were considered inferior and forced to settle for home jobs. With women working to build tanks, ships, and bombers for the war, the knowledge quickly spread around that they were capable of these jobs. The strength of the women was clearly illustrated, and their efforts towards the success were equally commendable (Kimble and Olson 545). A new era was then born, the era of women enlightenment and empowerment.

Symbolism and Significance

The outstanding colors of the poster are red, white, and blue which no American could miss noticing. They are the same colors that appear on the American flag. These colors communicate to the spirit of every American, and at the very first sight of the poster, any American will quickly relate emotionally to the poster. Moreover, they communicate patriotism and loyalty for the country. Any message borne in these set of colors conveys a required duty to the country by the citizen. The choice of colors was to the point, and it helped to a greater deal the success of the poster. The background is yellow whose main aim is to capture the reader's eye. In addition to that, it brings out clearly the features of the character Rosie and drives attention to her. At the topside of the poster are the words "we can do it". The selection of the word "we" instead of "you" personalizes this message. It is not the character Rosie saying to other women, but it is her and all the women and men together saying to one another. It is a unifying message, all-inclusive regardless of gender. It short, precise, and everyone can relate to it. The message was carefully selected to instill bravery and motivate the women to take the task at hand with all their strength. Then, there is the Rosie character, the center of all attention around whom a lot of the message is built. She is the new ideal identity of the woman, far from the soft-spoken requirement of society. She portrays a strong woman from her rather muscular arms. One of her arms is pulling back her sleeve. She is clad in a navy-blue work outfit with a Westinghouse logo on the color. Her hair is meticulously done and pulled to the back with the help of a red and white polka-dotted handkerchief. That is not all about her. She has put on a stern look, the kind expected of men involved in their work. Despite her look, she has her some touch of mascara on, a little eye-liner, and lipstick from afar. Watching the poster, she is the perfect portrayal of a manual laborer. Her job matches her outfit which was a common occurrence in manual jobs that involved getting dirty. Her muscular arms depict the strength of the women. They fit her for the job she is dressed for and give an indication that women are capable of the jobs. Despite her male appearance, she distinctly maintains her feminism. Her handkerchief tells of her roots as a housewife, and her make-up shows that her job does not take away a feminine nature, an argument some men gave for not agreeing to the campaign. Her folded sleeve shows her readiness to get into her work.

Relevance in Modern Times

Even in the current time, the poster remains relevant in the feminism issues. Rosie stands as the perfect illustration of the new age of women. Women involved in manual labor yet retaining their feminist state. She stands in the midst of the American colors, representing the role the American woman played to progress forward the world war. She stands as the proof against the standards set by society on women. When society required women to be soft and be just housewives, she stood up as a role model for women to emulate. She was what they envisioned to be and is, thus, at the base of the working class of women.

Elements of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The ethos at work in this art is the reputation of women in WWII. The role of women was not to engage in the war confrontations but to provide ammunitions and war supplies. The pathos depicted in this art is achieved through the facial expression of the lady. Even though there is a war, the lady expresses both anticipation and calmness. Lastly, the logos in this work can be seen in the words of the art. The nature of the Second World War could not allow the ladies to be in the frontline of the battlefield. All that they could do was to encourage the men that they could do it and become victorious.

Audience and Influence

Most artists come up with pieces of art with their audiences in mind. The Rosie the Riveter Poster has several audience groups. However, the most apparent of all these groups are the working-class women who can benefit more from the purpose of this art. The women in the second world war needed the motivation to carry on with their lives. This group of individuals was forced to undertake the duties of men while they were in the battlefields. Unfortunately, the dawn of the second world war marked misfortunes for this group of individuals as their male counterparts came back and took the available working opportunities. Therefore, the Rosie the Riveter Poster served as a form of encouragement to the ladies that they had lost their jobs but not everything. The second group of the audience of the Rosie the Riveter art piece is the male members of society. The Rosie the Riveter Poster informs men that women can do whatever can be done by the individuals of the masculine gender and with the highest perfection. This piece of art sends a chilling message to men that feminism is on the rise and they must accept the role of women in society. Lastly, the feminists are the third audience that can be well-served by the Rosie the Riveter Poster. This population uses the poster to fight for the rights of the oppressed and the inequalities that exist in the different aspects of the world. The world has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of feminists' groups that work tirelessly to ensure that the globe is free from the different forms of oppressions against the feminine gender. Therefore, the Rosie the Riveter Poster targets this audience group and provides them with a basis for their campaigns against women's oppression.


The poster is quoted and used in several important campaigns for the rights of women even in this age of technological advancements. Many more women allude to it to bring to life its lessons for women to learn. From it emerges the power and strength of women. The poster indeed achieved its purpose. It brought about the empowering of women to continue from where their men left. It is from this poster that many took the duty to their country in the time of war. Their involvement in the construction of ships and tanks for the war complemented that of their men at the forefront of the war. Needless to say, this poster will remain to be an emblem for the strength and ability of a woman. It constantly reminds her of the past and the expanse of her future. To this day, it speaks that women are capable of as great things as men.

Work Cited

Kimble, James J., and Lester C. Olson. “Visual Rhetoric Representing Rosie the Riveter: Myth and Misconception in J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” Poster. (Undetermined).” Rhetoric & Public Affairs, vol. 9, no. 4, 2006, pp. 533-569.

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