World War II. 1939 to 1945. A patriotic era, for sure.
The government implemented a program to encourage Americans’ sense of patriotism and loyalty, and to generate enthusiasm among the Republic’s workforce. There was no shortage of huge billboards along the highways and thoroughfares; information concerning the war received mass distribution via radio, movies, and documentary films shown in movie theatres.
But government planners envisioned an additional method for drawing closer to workers, employers, and the public at large — individual, single sheet posters. They were considerably less expensive than billboards, and could easily be distributed to and placed in schools, factories, offices, store windows, etc.
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During 1941, a nationwide contest was sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art, the Army air Corps, and the U. S. Department of the Treasury. John C. Atherton, a commercial artist, won first prize in the Defense Bond category.
Prior to Germany’s September 1939 invasion of Poland, artists working for the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) created a new simplified method for producing and reproducing posters — called silk-screen techniques. Supported by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat), the W.P.A. published a handbook in 1943 advising the public that making posters was a “democratic activity.”
During the decade leading up to Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, Americans were consternated enough without anything else going on. Not surprisingly, that did not stop labor unions from continuously instigating uprisings and strikes on the home front. Meanwhile, soldiers were preparing for their sure-to-come marching orders, and having to deal with a lot of angst caused by thoughts of leaving their families behind, perhaps forever.
Government and business leaders urged unions to “put a lid on it”, at least for the war’s duration. The war resulted in major industrial changes – from production of consumer goods to war materiel, necessitating much-needed cooperation between, and sacrifices by, workers and managers. Increased productivity was imperative in order for the United States to adequately support its military; patriotism was the key element of success.
Some industries encouraged organization of committees composed of labor and management representatives, working together to produce and distribute posters and promote the sale of war bonds. Many began referring to themselves as Uncle Sam’s “production soldiers.”
The presence of women in industry grew out of necessity; they needed to replace the dwindling working corps of men. As the female work force grew, seemingly overnight, so did the variety of posters picturing the faces of women working on planes and tanks. A picture taken by United Press in 1942, made its way into a well-recognized poster published by Westinghouse’s “War Production Coordinating Committee.” Even back then, image-finishing techniques similar to air brushing were used – note the muscles added in the following poster.
And they certainly did “DO IT”! Just look at this World War II Boeing B-17 that made it back to base following a battle that practically tore it in half!
In June of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI). Among the duties assigned to OWI, was the oversight by government officials of all posters and their content and imagery.
These two posters made it through OWI’s approval process, in spite of the spiritual overtones of their content. Given the accredited benefactor in the following poster, I wonder if the declaration of peace would be on today’s front page?
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Geraldine Hoff Doyle
One of at least three young women who portrayed, or were the inspiration for, the series of “Rosie the Riveter” posters, passed away just a few days ago. Her name was Geraldine Hoff Doyle. At age 17, she was working in a Michigan steelworks factory when a United Press reporter walked through and snapped her picture. More information is available from James Lilek’s article – here.
Rose Will Monroe
Another young woman on whom the “Rosie the Riveter” posters were based was Rose Will Monroe. Rose was discovered by the famous actor Walter Pidgeon who, during a bond drive, toured the aircraft factory where she was working. Rose, who passed away in 1997, was the subject of a nice article in the Ypsilanti Gleanings
magazine; see Michelle Kirwan-Woods’ article – here
A movement was generated by “Rosie the Riveter” posters. Remaining strong and growing over many years, the movement developed into a Rosie the Riveter Trust, then a Memorial, and approval by Congress of the “Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park.” The National Park is being constructed where the former Kaiser Shipyards were located along with other wartime industrial and community sites in Richmond, California. The law authorizing the new national park was signed by President Bill Clinton on 25 October 2000. The park and the Memorial honor over “… six million women who labored on the Home Front who are symbolized by Rosie the Riveter…” This is a tremendous project; please visit the extensive online site – here.
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Blessings for the new year of 2011….
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“Produce for Victory”, Smithsonian Institution Online Exhibit.
Dr. William R. Van Osdol, World War II Collection.
“Rosie the riveter Will Always Be Distinctly American: Geraldine Hoff Doyle …”, by James Lilek, RightNetwork.
Rosie the Riveter Trust -and- National Park online site.
“Our Gal Rosie: Rose Will Monroe”, Ypsilanti Gleanings.