This collage is made up of images from different wars throughout history, primarily World War I and World War II. The bottom half of this collage contains images of feminine women, whom artists depict as frail and incapable. The women are constrained to traditional values and are not welcome to take part in the war or work in the factories. Above these very strict, conventional propaganda posters are those that contain a balance. Within this category, women are persuaded to aid the war; however, this is done in a subtle way by having women take jobs in factories or in the nurse corps. This shows the progression of women’s rights or it simply shows the desperate nature of people in wartime. Above these two groups stand the more modern view on women—that they are capable of any man’s job. Here, the propaganda posters highly encourage women to participate in battles, and therefore there are scenes of war mixed into the images.
The propaganda, Rosie the Riveter (1943), was originally featured on the front cover of an edition of the popular magazine, the Saturday Evening Post. After Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. intervention in World War II, and the consequent increase of men in the military, the U.S. government launched propaganda campaigns. These campaigns targeted women to enter the work force. This was due to the need to meet the production demand in factories. Norman Rockwell, a Saturday Evening Post artist, developed the original Rosie the Riveter painting in 1943. Rockwell was born in New York in 1894. He was a devoted artist, attending The New York School of Art when he was fourteen and afterward both The National Academy of Design and The Art Students League. His first job as an artist was before the age of sixteen, and he later designed hundreds of front covers for the Saturday Evening Post (Norman Rockwell Museum). One of these covers, Rosie the Riveter, was likely influenced by the 1943 song, “Rosie the Riveter”, by John Jacob Loeb and Redd Evan. This song persuaded women to work in factories, which is similar to the message of Rockwell’s cover (Doyle). The artist's work was used to advocate women’s civil rights and laid a foundation for later feminist artworks, in which Rosie would be a symbol of female empowerment.
This work contains significant details that display women’s lack of femininity during World War II. Women were generally depicted as frail and were painted wearing dresses or doing work in the household. Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter does not follow this norm. Rockwell ignores women’s femininity through Rosie's appearance and environment. Rosie’s arms and body are wide and muscular. She is wearing working overalls, clothing that would not normally be seen on a woman of her time, and her shoes look as if they could be worn by a male. A riveting gun rests in her lap. Furthermore, Rockwell was well known for the humor in his work, which he did not fail to add in Rosie the Riveter. Adolph Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, lies under the foot of the woman. Through this detail, Rockwell is implying that even females are superior to Hitler’s ideology. Rosie’s face and hair are other details that support the lack of femininity in the piece. Instead of a very narrow face with long hair, her cheeks are broad and her hair is short and masculine. Lastly, her pose is not typical of a woman of her time: Rosie’s posture is very rigid, she is strong and demanding, and her head is held up high.
When investigating femininity expressed during times of war, one can see that Rosie the Riveter is strictly propaganda, which displays the acceptance of masculine women. In the artwork, Rosie gives up her traditional values and duties—cleaning, cooking, and caring for children. She takes on a man’s role and aids the war by working in a factory. Rockwell’s propaganda is trying to prove that when necessary, as in a time of war, a woman is capable of turning away from her femininity. The woman in the cover is displaying female power, strength, and capability. Thus, Rosie the Riveter expresses a similar message to another feminist propaganda—Valenzuela’s Miliciana de Waswalito. Rockwell’s propaganda stresses women’s ability to work as a man and their duty to sacrifice their femininity to support war.
“About Norman Rockwell” Norman Rockwell Museum. 08 May 2011
Doyle, Jack. “Rosie The Riveter”Pop History Dig.30 April 2011
“The Riveter: Women Working During World War II” nps.gov 30 April 2011
Orlando Valenzuela’s Miliciana de Waswalito (1984) is a photograph of a woman in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. It was taken during the Sandinista Revolution, which was also known as the Contra War. This revolution was a result of the dictator, Anastasio “Tacho” Somoza Garcia. The dictator caused dissension by allowing only himself and his close friends control over alien businesses, not keeping promises made during his campaign, driving the country into debt, and finally by detaining 500 students who were part of a non-violent protest against his re-election (Truman). To end Somoza’s dictatorship, which was supported by the U.S., many Nicaraguans joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) under Carlos Fonseca Amador (Turman). The photograph was taken by Valenzuela, the editor and photographer of the Youth Boys magazine. Later, it was so famous it became the image of the World Solidarity Campaign Nicaragua. This photograph captures a moment in which a woman represents her position as both a soldier and as a mother of the Sandinista Revolution.
This photo is of a woman carrying out two tasks at once: she is nursing a young baby and carrying a gun over her right shoulder. Behind her, the commotion and turmoil of the Contra War continues on; however, she calmly proceeds with her job, which is to act as a mother and a fighter. The placement of the child and the gun show there is an equal balance; one duty does not outweigh the other. The woman in the center of the photograph is significant because Valenzuela hoped for her to be the only focus of the photograph, allowing the viewer to observe the gun and the child. Another factor that shows this focus are the colors of the photograph: black and white. This style draws people away from small details, and instead to the bigger, more important objects of feminism.
This photograph is clearly Nicaraguan propaganda that demonstrates society’s acceptance of a female's ability to take on two very different roles. The woman in the painting is a symbol of the coexistence of these diverse jobs. Although she is shown fighting in war, the mother remains loyal to her conventional duty—caring for her baby. The photographer displays that females are capable of male's jobs, even the most extreme tasks such as fighting in war. Moreover, their obligation to the tradition of raising and nurturing children is still revealed. Valenzuela makes people aware of the fact that women are still feminine when doing masculine feats. The photograph shows that in times of war a woman does not need to be completely masculine as Rosie the Riveter implies, and she does not need to lose her femininity to the gun.
Major, Mark. “The Sandinista Revolution and the ‘Fifth Freedom’” Monthly Review. 30 April 2011
“Pre-Revolutionary Nicaragua” Truman. 30 April 2011
“Women’s Role in the Sandinista Revolution” Stanford.edu 20 April 2011
“1970-1987: The contra war in Nicaragua” Libcom. 30 April 2011
Maurice Rickards, the author of Posters of the First World War, states that Enlist (1915), by Fred Spear, is "perhaps the most powerful of all war posters" (Selected Graphic Images). The artwork is based off of one of America’s most heartbreaking moments—the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Despite several warnings from newspapers and telegrams of the dangers of the “European War Zone”, Captain W.T. Turner sailed the Lusitania from New York City to Liverpool, England with goods to aid the British in World War I. The U.S. was currently neutral in the war; nevertheless, they were to be victims of attack from the Germans. Off the coast of Ireland, a German submarine fired a torpedo at the British ocean liner. At 2:10 on May 7, 1915 over 1,000 innocent people were killed by the attack, including hundreds of American passengers (EyeWitness to History). Although the U.S. did not officially join World War I until two years after the incident, the sinking was one factor that led to their involvement. The event was an unforgettable catastrophe and resulted in propaganda from both sides of the disaster: the Germans declaring the presence of weapons on the ocean liner in the form of a medallion and the U.S. using the sinking to persuade men to join the war efforts (Kerr).
The woman in Spear’s Enlist is very feminine, even though it was created during war. In the center of the work, a woman and child sink after the destruction of the Lusitania. The mother cradles her young baby, as if to protect it, as she sinks deeper and deeper into the water. Her hair is long and elegant, almost blending into the artist’s water strokes. A white dress is draped over; this dress represents the purity, innocence, and femininity of the woman and the child. From the woman’s face, one can tell that she does not struggle to live but submits to the violence of war inflicted upon her and accepts her death with a peaceful expression. Aside from this focus of femininity in the painting, the poster is a dark, mossy green, giving the artwork a depressing tone. Due to the dying woman and child, the word 'enlist' makes men feel responsible for the protection of the "weak" from the dangers of war.
Enlist displays the female gender as strictly feminine. Although this piece was during a time in which women could potentially join the war efforts, Spear does not portray this message in his propaganda. The woman is vulnerable and lacks any sign of strength. Through this, Spear makes clear that women are not meant to fight in war. Compared to the masculine women in Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter and Orlando Valenzuela’s Miliciana de Waswalito, this painting’s message is very different. This poster portrays women as having a completely different purpose in life. Females are not mean to join war, but are defenseless victims to the enemy in war. In this specific painting, Spear makes a woman the target of abuse and harm, and the artist uses a woman to appeal to men to enlist in the military.
"Captain Turner" Lusitania Online. 10 May 2011
“Enlist by Fred Spear” English.emory 10 May 2011
Kerr, Stephen T. “Selected Graphic Images” Washington. 30 April 2011
Destroy This Mad Brute—Enlist (1917) by H.R. Hopps was an American Recruitment poster, which attacked Germany for their brutal actions in the Rape of Belgium. In 1904, two European countries, France and Britain, signed the Entente Cordiale. This agreement stated that the countries were to be allies against their common enemy, Germany. Thus, the German military felt threatened and vulnerable to not only these two nations, but also to Russia, who was discussing joining the Entente Cordiale. The Germans decided to take action. On December 1905, Alfred von Schlieffen, The Army Chief of Staff, established Germany’s military strategy—the Schlieffen Plan. The purpose of this plan was to protect Germany by forcing France to surrender. If carried out efficiently, the plan would eliminate the threat of attack from France, Russia, and Britain. Schlieffen's plan entailed marching through Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg to invade France (Spartacus Educational). Furthermore, the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, disregarded the Treaty of London. This treaty called for Germany and other European nations to respect France's neutrality. Therefore, the German government allowed their military to execute the Schlieffen plan on August 2, 1914. The march through Belgium, which became know as the Rape of Belgium, was a major event in World War I. The rape took place in central and eastern Belgium and was a result of German soldiers' fear of Belgium guerrilla fighters (Antwerp Tourist Guide). Innocent women and children were victims to the catastrophe. The Rape of Belgium added to the tension and drama of World War I, an event that would lead to new propaganda.
In this painting, two objects criticize German society. First, the word 'Kultur' on the bloody club suggests that Germans are uncivilized. Secondly, the gorilla is wearing a distinctive German Military spiked helmet with 'militarism' on the front to degrade German government methods (Haverford). Holding these objects is a gorilla, who represents a German soldier. The German is depicted as a gorilla because Americans believed soldiers' actions throughout the Rape of Belgium were astonishing and horrific, making the soldiers barbaric. In the arms of the 'mad brute' is a maiden. She is displayed as feminine through her apparel and hair, submission to the abuse of others, and the fact that she is helpless. Lastly, France is demolished in the background; this portrays the destruction of German troops and their potential threat to America (Haverford).
In Destroy This Mad Brute—Enlist one can see that the actions of the Germans against women is related to woman’s association with the land. Nations are typically known as “she”. By taking over women, the soldiers were taking over the land of America. In addition, they conquered the people genetically, by making the women have children who were part foreign. Consequently, American men who see the propaganda will want to protect their people against other nations in the war, specifically from putting women’s virginity at risk, violating their purity, and taking over their land. Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter and Orlando Valenzuela's Miliciana de Waswalito are opposite of Hopps views; however, this poster relates to Fred Spear’s Enlist because the two pieces display women as helpless, weak victims of war.
“Destroy This Mad Brute” Digital Desk. 10 May 2011 <http://www.digitaldesk.org/projects/secondary/propaganda/destroy_brute.html>.
“Schlieffen Plan” Spartacus Educational 10 April 2011
“Belgium in World War I” Antwerp Tourist Guide. 10 April 2011
“Recruitment and War Bond Posters” Haverford.edu 10 May 2011
Gordon K. Odell designed the Canadian propaganda piece, Keep These Hands Off (1941-42), to encourage the public to buy victory bonds. These bonds would help finance the military throughout World War II. The war costs the Allies, including the U.S., Russia, France, England, and Canada, enormous sums of money from the years 1939 to 1945. Thus, the governments needed the support of the common people to successfully progress in the war. Canada’s government sold victory bonds for money and to make buyers feel as if they were contributing to the war, resulting in a morale boost.
In Keep These Hands Off, there are symbols on two hands, which represent Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. The hands loom over a mother and her young child (Picture History). Above the two, Odell wrote 'Keep these hands off!' as a form of persuading men to join the military. The mother and child are in the center of the propaganda. They are painted with pale, delicate colors while dark, witch-like hands jeopardize their security. These details are important because they affect the viewer on an emotional level, by making them feel responsible for the wellbeing of women and children. The mother and child are symbols of the helplessness of the female gender and suggest the need to protect them through aiding the war’s finances.
Although it was created during World War II, this image uses several methods to emphasize women’s femininity. Due to the Industrial Revolution prior to World War II, men turned to mechanized labor, whereas women became associated with domestic work: caring for children, cleaning, and cooking (Women in Literature). One factor that resembles femininity—caring for children—is evident in Odell’s painting. Aside from the appearance of the baby, the fact that the woman is in need of a man influences viewers to believe that women should remain as they are and not participate in nondomestic work. The mother is placid, defenseless, and vulnerable as two hands attempt to grasp her and the young child. No masculine characteristics such as the muscular arms in Rosie the Riveter or the gun in Miliciana de Waswalito are included in this propaganda. This shows that Odell, similarly to many others of the time, did not believe war was a time for women to give up their traditional duties and turn to those of men. Instead, he stresses the femininity of the female gender through their perpetual lifestyle of domestic work and dependence on men.
“Poster Art from World War II” The National Archives. 30 April 2011
“Women in the Twentieth Centruy and Beyond” Women in Literature. 30 April 2011
“The Allies” World War II Info. 08 May 2011