Table of Contents
About the Author
About the Photos
The book Rosie's Mom contains nearly 100 illustrations. The first large group of photographs were taken by Lewis Hine, one of the greatest documentary photographers of the twentieth century. Working for the National Child Labor Committee beginning in 1908, Hine traveled across America taking pictures and interviewing children who worked in factories, mines, and mills; on farms as berry pickers; in seaside sheds shucking oysters; and on city street corners as newsies and bootblacks. His photographs, taken with a clear social and political purpose, helped bring about passage of the first federal child labor law in 1916. Hine also, throughout his career, photographed men and women at work. In his early photographs, women and children, especially, seem to be burdened by their work. Later in his career, Hine would focus more on the satisfactions and nobility of certain kinds of labor.

Many of the women munitions workers began their working lives as child laborers in the textile and garment industries. Lewis Hine's "Little Spinner," courtesy of the National Archives at College Park (102-LH-462).

The second large group of images comes from the records of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor. Early in November 1918, just before the war ended, the Woman in Industry Service asked employers around the country to send in photographs showing women at work. In response, the WiIS received several hundred photographs that were then used for posters and slide shows to illustrate good and bad working conditions.(1) On the backs of most of the photographs, the Woman in Industry Service staff wrote captions identifying the task or the company. Some of the captions also include evaluative comments such as “good lighting” or “no seats provided.”

Gluing room at Bohn Refrigerator Company. Women's Bureau photograph, courtesy of the National Archives at College Park (RG 86G-7D-1).

The Federal Government also, during the First World War, collected photographs through the War Department and the Signal Corps. Both agencies made some effort to record not just the soldiers but also the workers in war industries.

During the Second World War, the Office of Emergency Management hired professional photographers to document the war on the home front. Alfred T. Palmer created thousands of images that were then published in magazines, newspapers, and books. Gordon Parks, working for the Farm Security Administration, produced photographs of both rural and urban America. Many of the photographs by Palmer and Parks are clearly meant to inspire and celebrate, as well as to record the war effort. Three of these images appear in the epilogue of Rosie's Mom.

The two posters included in Rosie’s Mom were created through the Division of Pictorial Publicity, a group of artists headed by Charles Dana Gibson. Gibson had been recruited by George Creel, head of the Committee on Public Information, to help publicize the government’s war aims and to build support for the war effort. Donating their work to the cause, the artists of the Division of Pictorial Publicity submitted 700 poster designs and hundreds of other images to government departments and patriotic committees.(2) The drawing for the newspaper advertisement in Chapter 6 was almost certainly produced by one of the artists in Gibson’s group.

The remaining illustrations in Rosie’s Mom come from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, most of the photographers are unknown and we can only guess at the feelings and motivations of those who created the images. All of them, however, give us a sense that the women pictured were doing something remarkable and out of the ordinary.

(1) "First Annual Report of the Director of the Woman in Industry Service," in Reports of the Department of Labor, 1919 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), 1155.

(2) Walton Rawls, Wake Up, America!: World War I and the American Poster (New York: Abbeville Press, 1988), 149-69.