I have chosen J. Howard's 1942 poster We Can Do It as my visual primary source. The poster's overall measure is 22 inches by 17 inches, under the subject Homefront World War Two and currently commissioned by Westinghouse Electric Corporation (http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object/nmah_538122). Easy to identify We can do it!, erroneously as Rosie the Riveter (Rosie the riveter), by J. Howard Miller and icon of feminism that was taken from one of the many motivational posters used during the Second World War, armed conflict in which the propaganda was used, among many other things, to favor the incorporation of women into a world of work in which the jobs that men had left when enlisting must be covered. However, this poster is not part of the extensive collection of institutional posters developed in those by the Creel Committee but belongs to the Westinghouse Electric, company of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) in 1942 commissioned Miller a poster to motivate their workers. It is one of the most famous images of the Second World War: a woman with a red polka-dot handkerchief flexing her biceps accompanied by a blue speech bubble with the phrase "We can do it!". The image that is now printed on magnets, coffee mugs or T-shirts, is a feminist symbol and a cultural icon that has inspired millions of women around the world. After the entry of the United States into the war, the demand for labor in its industry skyrocketed. Not only for the loss of workers who came to the front to fight but for the intensity had that war production demanded. Therefore, the authorities sought the incorporation of women to work. It is not that women did not work already, but that those who did were mostly of lower class or belonging to minorities, so the arrival in the labor market of white middle-class women was a novelty.
In order to favor the incorporation of women into the productive force, and as had happened with the campaigns of recruitment or ordering of the rearguard, the government ordered a propaganda campaign. Inspired by the figure of "Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl", the Canadian Veronica Foster who worked on the production line of the John Inglis Co. Ltd. and who had already become an icon, the US government created the character of Rosie the Riveter, a woman willing to work, efficient, with strength ... an authentic worker of the American industry. In 1942 Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb premiered a song, a success, in which they talked about Rosie, a strong woman who helped relentlessly to the obligations of her homeland. Shortly after, in May 1943, the Saturday Evening Post published the first image of the Riveter, an illustration of Norman Rockwell that reached great diffusion. Many were the women they identified as the real Rosie; however, it seems that the one that came closest to the iconic image was Rose Will Monroe, a worker at Willow Run Aircraft Factory, where the B-29 bombers and B-24were produced. Perhaps for this reason, for this spirit of seeing everywhere in Rosie, no one can miss her identification with the motivational poster of the Westinghouse.
In 1942, the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee commissioned Howard Miller to issue a new motivational poster to encourage women to fulfill the obligations that the US government demanded. Shortly after receiving this assignment, Miller presented the famous "We can do it!". Inspired by a Michigan worker Geraldine Hoff photographed by United Press, the poster was aimed at the internal consumption of the company to increase the morale and performance of the workers. The poster was exhibited in the factories of the company during the month of February 1943 (its distribution did not exceed two thousand copies) in places of passage, production rooms, entrances ... After this brief period, it disappeared to reappear in the decade of 1980, at which time it was embraced by feminist movements as a symbol of women's independence and mistakenly identified by many people as Rosie. However, the only Rosie that existed was the one imagined by Rockwell, a woman with a masculine air (breaking with the stereotypes of femininity of the time), at lunchtime (her lunch box identified her for posterity), dressed as a worker of the industry, with the riveting machine in his lap and crushing with his Penny Loafer a copy of Mein Kampf. They also contributed to the victory.
The goal of this simple poster with a powerful message was to fan the patriotic flame of American women. The intention was to get them to go to work in the factories where they would perform tasks that, until then, were only reserved for men (such as the production of war material). Howard Miller was inspired by the image of Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a 17-year-old female worker photographed in 1941 by the UPI agency at the factory where she worked, the American Broach & Machine Company in Michigan. The woman in the Miller poster is often associated with Rosie the Riveter, an icon, and the concept of the American working woman in World War II that first appeared in a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loebe in 1942. The lyrics tell how Rosie with her hard work and hardworking spirit helped her country during that difficult period of war. Although the poster 'We Can Do It!' By Howard Miller was only a brief period of time exposed, his image has transcended in time. The image of a working woman accompanied by such a resounding message has served as a symbol of female labor emancipation that began to emerge in the 60s. Many associates the woman who shows her fist up and the arm rolled up, with the struggle for women's rights and feminist movements. And the truth is that, although its objective when it was designed was not precisely this, the poster of 'We Can Do It!' has come to sign a very significant milestone in the development of the role of women in modern society.
In conclusion, the image of women changed during World War II, but only temporarily. Despite the success of these campaigns, pushed by the demand for labor, which increased the number of working women in the United States by more than six million, after the end of the conflict, most of them returned home. Mainly because the majority never joined the industry, almost all of them worked in services, offices ... jobs that required little qualification and whose remuneration was scarce (a salary lower than that of the men who performed those same tasks before the war). However, it is conceivable that the incorporation into the labor world of many of these women, and all those who already did and fought for their rights for a long time before the fire in the shirt factory Triangle Shirtwaist in New York (1911), made that they undertake a battle that still continues. Whether the identification is right or wrong, Rosie the Riveter can do it! Original reproductions of the poster can be seen at the National Museum of American History in Washington since it is on file there.
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