Courtesy of labor historian Erik Loomis, here's an informative background piece on Rosie's origin.
Among other points, Loomis reminds us that the "We Can Do It" image most often associated with Rosie today (lower left) is not the original. In fact, the "We Can Do It" Rosie has some troubling not-so-worker-friendly origins in a company propaganda campaign by the Westinghouse Corporation.
The original Rosie portrait (upper right) was the creation of Norman Rockwell, and appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943.
Both Rosies have become iconic, and the "We Can Do It" image's corporate associations have long been buried under a bigger and better message of self-empowerment for women.
But Rockwell's Rosie is the original. And she looks it, too, in a distinctly American way. Rockwell could get a bit schmaltzy at times, but his best work, including Rosie, captures a unique combination of the heroic and the wise-ass, displayed in a single attitude. His Rosie poses proudly in front of the flag, holding a classic profile. But she's not going to drop that sandwich, either! And who's gonna tell her she has to? There's no doubt she's earned it.