Female Welders

The Most Iconic Photographs in the History of Welding

Historic photographs

“Wendy the Welder” built ships, while “Rosie the Riveter” was assembling fighter planes during the World War II.


Some of the most iconic black-and-white photos of female weldess are accesible via the following links:

A female acetylene welder at work in an aircraft factory in the Midlands of England, September 1918.

Imperial War Museum, Q 28182


Women electric welders at Hog Island shipyard. These are the first women to be engaged in actual ship construction, in the United States, ca. 1918

Paul Thompson, NARA 1882699

Enola O'Connell, age 32, widow and mother of one child, the only woman welder at Heil and Co., Milwaukee, February 1943 

H. R. Hollem, LOC, 1a34984v


A young riveting machine operator at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant joins sections of wing ribs to reinforce the inner wing assemblies of B-17F heavy bombers, Long Beach, California, October 1942

Alfred T. Palmer, Library of Congress, 1a35336


We Can Do It!

The poster "We Can Do It!" was produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric, and has by now become an icon of the feminist movement.


During World War II, the "We Can Do It!" poster was not yet connected to the 1942 song "Rosie the Riveter", nor to the widely seen Norman Rockwell painting called Rosie the Riveter that appeared on the cover of the Memorial Day issue of the Saturday Evening Post, 29 May 1943.


It became more widely known after it had been republished on the cover of the Smithsonian magazine in 1994 and on a US first-class mail stamp in 1999.

J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!", also known as "Rosie the Riveter"

Office for Emergency Management, NAID 535413


Rosie the Riveter in Art

Dr. Margi Conrads, the Chief Curator of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, talks in this 7¼ min video with Dr. Beth Harris of Smarthistory about "Rosie the Riveter."

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1943, oil on canvas

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


Sheridan Harvey explores in more detail the evolution of  "Rosie the Riveter" and discusses in this 14¼ min video the lives of real women workers in World War II.

Rosie the Riveter: Real Women Workers in World War II

Library of Congress

Military Welders

Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Mararita Melgoza, from Texas, uses a plasma cutter to cut a door in the ship fitter shop of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) near Guam, 27 May 2015

Seaman Matthew Riggs, U.S. Navy


Hull Technician Fireman Adrine M. Thomas uses shielded-metal arc welding (SMAW) for welding a handrail to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), Subic Bay, Philippines, 21 October 2009

Specialist Joshua J. Wahll, U.S. Navy


Flash Dance

After the war the status of  manual welders declined and had come to a low point in the 1980ies. No review of the most iconic female welders would be complete without mentioning Flashdance:

Alexandra Owens (played by Jennifer Beals) works as a welder at a steel mill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Flashdance - Official Trailer

"Her name is Alex  She works in a men's world She dances in a world of her dreams Flashdance — If a dream comes true, just one time, it can change your life for all time."