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Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash
In the heart of the historic capital, Washington DC, I stood next to the enduring, unyielding sculpture of women’s strength – the Rosie the Riveter Marker. On American Way, just east of Waterfront Street, the marker serves as a beacon of historical significance, evoking the spirit of a generation. Rosie, emblematic of the countless women who stepped up during World War II, is forever immortalized here. Her image symbolizes strength, determination, and empowerment.
As I approached, the sounds of lively chatter and the gentle lap of water from the nearby harbor filled the air. The marker itself stood proudly, an unmissable sight for those traversing the vibrant surroundings. It’s more than a mere monument; it’s a visual narrative, telling tales of the past through its stoic presence.
Rosie’s image on the marker was striking — her muscles flexed, a red bandana adorned with white polka dots wrapped around her hair, and a determined gaze in her eyes. She held a toolbox that one usually sees in a man’s hand. It’s not just a representation of one woman, but a collective homage to all the women who, like rivets, held the fabric of the nation together in a time of war.
As the gentle lap of harbor waters and animated chatter continued to fill the air, my fifteen-year-old daughter, Tanya, gazed at Rosie’s iconic sculpture. The bandana-wrapped image of strength sparked curiosity in her eyes, initiating a dialogue that would linger in our hearts.
“Maa, who is she?” Tanya inquired, her eyes still fixed on the emblem of resilience.
“Ah, that’s Rosie the Riveter,” I explained. “She embodies a pivotal time when women shattered the glass ceiling, becoming an indispensable force during the war.”
Tanya’s youthful countenance displayed a mix of amusement and perplexity. “So, that puts all the girls into big trouble. Now we have to work too, or we’re looked down upon?”
“Hilarious and perplexing,” I thought. “How so?” I probed.
A chuckle escaped my lips as I recognized the innocent naivety in her statement. “Does working and being independent seem troublesome to you?” I asked gently, sensing the burgeoning thoughts within her.
She dreamily spoke of an era where women’s roles were confined, concluding, “I thought I’d finish school, get married, and settle. I could take care of my kids, shop, meet friends, and just… enjoy life.”
“But Tanya,” I asked gently, “where will the money come from for all the enjoyment and shopping?”
“I’ll ask my husband?”
Her innocent assumption reflected the societal norms we were bound by. “But darling, being financially independent isn’t about not needing someone; it’s about having the choice and the freedom,” I began. “If you rely solely on your husband, would you feel truly free to make choices? And what if circumstances change? You have all the resources and opportunities to be independent. Why limit yourself when you can harness your potential and have a sense of security in your own right? Study hard and think of building your career.”
Silence enveloped us as Tanya absorbed the weight of my words. Rosie’s image, symbolizing a societal shift and gender equality, seemed to whisper tales of potential and capabilities. Breaking the silence, I said, “Rosie the Riveter doesn’t just signify a shift in the labor force during a time of crisis; she is the embodiment of a societal change, a symbol of gender equality, and a representation of the potential and capability of women. Her iconography is a testament to the breaking of gender norms and the challenging of societal expectations, illustrating that women could do the same work as men, and do it just as well.”
Tanya broke the ensuing silence, “Didn’t women feel bad asking their husbands for money back then?”
“They did, sweetheart. But choices were limited, role models scarce. Your path is different; it’s essential for you to be in the financial driver’s seat. You have the opportunity to be in control of your finances, supporting each other in maintaining family values.”
Tanya contemplated, “But what if my husband is always there to support me financially?”
I felt a surge of urgency and recounted the unfortunate fate of a woman, whose life was irrevocably altered by a tragedy, underscoring the importance of being prepared. “Life is unpredictable, Tanya. Remember Seema Mausi? After the accident, she was left with nothing – no financial support, no career. She had to pull her children out of school in Delhi and move back to her village. She struggled after that, always asking for help from others, and her children never returned to school.”
Tanya’s eyes widened in realization. “Nani Maa advised Seema Mausi to finish her education first. Why didn’t she listen? Why did Nani Maa let Seema Mausi move with her husband without finishing her studies and getting a job?”
I struggled to find an answer, reflecting on societal norms and expectations. “Accidents are unforeseen. The only thing that we can do is, we must prepare ourselves.”
The vulnerability in Tanya’s voice was palpable. I held her hand. “Sometimes, we are hesitant to defy norms, afraid of being outliers. But we must prepare ourselves, learn from others’ experiences.”
The air around us was thick with reflections and realizations. I could see the gears shifting in Tanya’s mind, the seeds of independence and foresight being sown. “Maa, I never thought about it like this… What if something happens…? I need to be prepared, don’t I?”
Realization dawned on her. The gravity of relying solely on marriage for security became apparent. I emphasized the importance of education and career, urging her to envision a future of independence and control.
My heart swelled with a mix of pride and relief. “Yes, darling. You must strive to sit in the driver’s seat of your life, steering it with knowledge, independence, and resilience.”
It took time for her to absorb the reality, but I was grateful for the conversation. The realization of being financially independent was a crucial lesson learned, standing beside the symbol of strength and resilience – Rosie the Riveter.
Note: Here’s the link to see the Sculpture.
I am a photographer and an avid reader. I am not a writer but I like to give words to my emotions. I love to cook and hike. I believe in humor and its impact read more...
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