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The Story Of The We Can Do It! Poster

2679 words - 11 pages

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This sparked full United States involvement in World War II which sent over 16 million Americans to the United States military (Doyle). The Hawley fiber liners in the military needed to be replaced because they proved unreliable over long periods of time. This combined with the many men that went to war led to the challenge that the U.S. Army sent to companies to create a better liner. The Westinghouse Company proved to have the best; they became the leading producer of liners made between 1941 and 1945 (“U.S. M-1”). This combination of sociohistoric events triggered the creation of war effort posters.
In 1942, the War Production Coordinating Committee for the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company hired J. Howard Miller, a Pittsburgh graphic artist, to create numerous posters for the war effort (Doyle). Miller is the creator of the well- known “We Can Do It!” poster. The War Production Coordinating Committee and other corporate war committees were created to manage labor and discourage disputes that might alter production. The War Production Coordinating Committee was not a government agency; it was specifically a Westinghouse committee (Sharp and Wade 82). They hired J. Howard Miller during a time when millions of women were going to work to replace the men that left for the war (McLellan).
The “We Can Do It” poster, although not complex, “blended traditional themes of workplace discipline with the imagery of sacrifice and patriotism” (Bird 78). When you first look at the image, the focal point is her flexed arm. Her arm would be considered unusually muscular for a woman. She has a dark blue, masculine factory worker uniform on along with a red and white polka dot bandanna. She has a stern, determined look on her face. The woman has well-kept nails and it appears as if she might have make-up on, like mascara, lipstick and blush. The emblem on the uniform is a worker badge with possibly an employee number on it, as most Westinghouse Company workers had a number. Most of your attention is drawn to her, however, there are white words in a blue speech bubble above her that says “We Can Do It!”. The background is bright yellow which attracts the readers attention. There’s the artist’s signature in the bottom left corner and a Westinghouse logo with “War Production Co-Ordinating Committee” written below it in the right hand corner. Because this poster was of a series and only to be posted for a limited amount of time, under the signature it says “Post Feb. 15- Feb. 28”.
The woman in the image on the left is thought to be modeled after Geraldine Doyle. A photo of her was taken by a United Press photographer when she was operating a metal-stamping machine. She had been wearing a polka-dot bandanna. It is believed that J. Howard Miller saw the image before creating the poster. Geraldine had no idea that she influenced the poster until the mid-1980s when she recognized her face...

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