MCO 425

We Can Do It!

The We Can Do It! poster featuring Rosie the Riveter was created by J. Howard Miller in 1942 and published by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. It was a precursor to Norman Rockwell’s 1943 Rosie which featured a female riveter that had a copy of Mein Kampf and a lunch pail with the name “Rosie” on it. The poster was marketed by Westinghouse for a two-week span as an effort to encourage women in the U.S. to join the labor force during World War II. As most of the eligible men had already been drafted into the military, there were many openings left in what the Library of Congress notes as the “defense industries, the civilian service, and even the armed forces.”

In actuality, this poster was mostly forgotten after its two-week run, and the ideas it espoused were highly abandoned after the war had ended. It wasn’t till the feminist movement of the 1980s, that this image was brought back as a symbol for female empowerment. But, for its time, it painted an image of women in roles not previously encouraged. The stereotypical view of women at the time was that they were primarily wives, mothers, and homemakers. Working outside of the home was the responsibility of men only. With the military draft and war, the status quo had to be abandoned to ensure that the U.S. would be able to contribute to the fight against the evil regimes of the day. The view that this image, and others like it, espoused was that women could still retain their femininity and confidence while assuming jobs to support the war effort.

The alternative view of the world that this image purports would have vast changes to the cultural and social landscape because women would be taking their place alongside men in the workforce, where previously they were excluded. Economically, more positions and opportunities would need to be opened to accommodate. That would change work dynamics as women rose in power and influence politics as women would be more likely to want to gain political power and vote in measures that benefited them.

The push for women in the labor force would require systemic change across the board. In industries that were previously only open to men, changes had to be made to allow women to step into these roles. Those women had to be trained on the positions they were assuming. They also needed to be treated as equals with men, which oftentimes was not the case. At that time in history, women filled those support roles but found that after the war  those who wanted to stay in the labor force were pushed right back out of it.  It wasn’t until the feminist movement decades later, that the ideals of this poster were brought back into widespread conversation across the nation.

Today, it seems that the ideals of this image have been realized for the most part in the U.S. Nearly every job is open to women if they meet the requirements and are willing to put in the work for the position ( i.e. the military). While there is always work to be done in dealing with equality, there has been much positive systemic change made in the U.S. regarding this area.

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