"Rosie the Riveter" was a song, written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loebin in 1942, about a woman working in a factory to aid the war effort. The song quickly gained popularity and the name became a nickname for all women working in war industries. Women were vital to American war production, working in shipyards, steel mills, foundries, and warehouses. These jobs were so important that many propaganda posters were made to encourage women to work, even in jobs traditionally held mostly or exclusively by men. After the war, just like after World War I, the jobs were reclaimed by the returning soldiers, and the women were pushed back into the home.

Run a Google image search for Norman Rockwell's painting of Rosie the Riveter. Now run one for Michelangelo's fresco of Isaiah from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The parallel is obvious and intentional. I suppose Rockwell first thought of Michelangelo's Cumaean Sibyl from the Sistine, since he had a woman with hypertrophic muscles in mind (Rosie is certainly better developed than Isaiah!). But the Sibyl is ugly, and probably older than Rosie ought to be, and her pose is not really conducive to Rockwell's purpose--for the Sibyl is all about nervous tension turned inward. If Rosie imitated her pose, it would look like she were losing, not winning, the war.

But having thought of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rockwell easily and effortlessly adapted Isaiah's mannered pose into Rosie's distraction from her sandwich. Isaiah's book of prophecy becomes Rosie's lunch pail, but the idea is still there in Hitler's 'prophetic' book (Mein Kampf) under her feet. He added a halo to Rosie just to make sure we get it. The absurd goggles, riveter's mask, and masculine clothing offer a touch of humor (and express Rosie's having stepped into a traditionally masculine role under the pressure of wartime).

The Sistine Chapel puts us squarely in the world of Roman Catholicism, and Catholics will quickly see the symbolism of her foot coming down precisely on the snake of her pneumatic hose (Mary crushing the serpent). That the hose does not actually run beneath her foot but behind her seat is irrelevant--in the two-dimensional plane of the painting, and to our eye, it is running under her feet. Not convinced about the snake metaphor? Why has Rockwell painted the hose under full pressure, if not to have it twist the way he wants into a symbolic snake? Surely in real life a rivet gun would be powered down during lunchbreak and the hose would hang limply.

In this, perhaps Rockwell was showing off his knowledge of Michelangelo in another way, as well. If you look closely at his Pietà (of 1499), you'll see that the veins in the dead Christ's arms are bulging (one arm being specifically exposed for our inspection so we can see this)--but dead people's veins don't do that, because there is no blood pressure. Michelangelo knows this, of course, but he has the purpose of signalling the gathering force of the soon-to-resurrect Christ.


Here are some rough-and-ready images I found (with Lometa's help--thanks!)
Rosie: www.thecityreview.com/s02sampq.gif
Isaiah: www.newberkshire.com/03img/nrm-isaiah.jpg
An alternative Rosie (not the one under discussion): www.archives.gov/about_us/calendar_of_events/images/rosie_the_riveter.gif
I am currently getting both pictures side by side in a Google image search run for "Michelangelo Isaiah". Follow the link to www.newberkshire.com.

In Bioshock, a Rosie is one of two types of the Big Daddy types of enemies. For those unfamiliar with the game, Bioshock takes place in 1960 in a giant underwater city called Rapture that was built in the post WWII years. A Big Daddy is one of the many genetically modified beings you will find in the city; they tend to ignore the player unless you either attack them first, or attack the Little Sister they are guarding. The Little Sisters gather genetic material, ADAM, to fuel the underwater war machine in the city. The Rosie's choice of weaponry? A rivet gun.

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