Rosie the Riveter is more than a fashion icon, says women’s and gender studies professor Renée Bondy: she’s a symbol of women’s equality.
Dr. Bondy discussed the character, who represented women working in industry during the Second World War, in an appearance on the TVOntario children’s program The Mystery Files. In each episode, Kyla Madeira and Ethan (E.B.) Burnett must find the connection between seemingly unrelated objects, which are actually clues to history’s impact on the present.
Bondy says the producers were looking for a women’s and gender studies expert with a background in Canadian history. She teaches the UWindsor course “The History of Women’s Movements in North America,” making her a perfect fit.
Originally daunted by the prospect of translating her university-level material for children, she decided to proceed, filming a sequence at the Windsor Airport hangar that houses the collection of the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association.
“The University’s mandate is that knowledge transfer is really important,” she says. “What’s great about this show is that it introduces children to history in a way that makes it exciting and fun.”
One opportunity she did turn down was to don Rosie’s coveralls herself.
“I said I would dress like a university professor,” Bondy says. “Kyla dressed like Rosie.”
She explained to viewers that dresses and skirts were too dangerous to wear in factories, so women started to wear coveralls, and the bandana kept women’s hair safely away from the machinery.
When the war ended and women were encouraged — or forced — to leave their jobs in favour of men, Rosie the Riveter came to represent thousands and thousands of women who served in war industries, Bondy says.
The episode, entitled “The Mystery of Work It,” aired July 17. It is available for streaming on the TVO Kids website.