100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Female Worker

One of the most famous figures to come from World War II, Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of how society had changed its view of women in the workforce. However, she was never actually featured on a coin. While her symbolism was used as advertisement, the more realistic view of women in the workforce was simply categorized as a “female worker.” Important certainly during the war and continuing on after, there is no doubt that a female worker should be placed on a list as great as the 100 Greatest Women On Coins compilation as published by Whitman Publishing. Depicted in many countries throughout the years, author Ron Guth helps us explore the where and the when of these great symbolic women.

#45 - Female Worker

“Female worker” is quite the generalized term in today’s society especially considering the amount of women in the workforce as compared to back when World War II was taking place. To make it more relatable, Guth offers a definition, citing that female worker “for the purposes of this book is any woman who is engaged in a money-making occupation, or in agriculture, or is simply a representation of the ideal worker.” This is quite different from a woman’s role pre-dating the war as it was her “job” to support her family and husband, maintain the success and contribute to society, and raise their children.

All of that changed in America when the war took the men from the workforce, forcing women to make their own money to support their families. Society had changed and women were in the workforce for the first time while simultaneously finding independence. While many glass ceilings were lightyears away from being shattered, it inevitably enabled the women of today, past and present, to enter any profession they saw fit.

From 1898-1914 and again from 1960 to present day, female workers sowing seeds by hand in a field was a familiar figure on coins in France. The Sower appeared on many French commemorative coins, including the large 2009 50- and 100-euro coins honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Court of Human Rights. China and Japan both have had coins honoring female workers in the silk industry, including a 1995 China 5-Yuan coin that depicts a silk spinner at work. Japan has had 500- and 1,000-yen coins featuring women working in silk mills as part of their 47 Prefectures Coin Program. The West German Republic struck a coin in 1949 that featured a woman planting an oak tree to symbolize the rebirth of a nation. In 1999, Bosnia-Herzegovina borrowed that theme on a 14-euro coin that was struck featuring a woman planting “The Tree of Stability.” There is also a 1979 20-mark coin honoring the 30th birthday of East Germany, a Communist take on the female worker.

According to Guth, collecting difficulty is easy for the coins described depicting female workers. They are inexpensive and common.