Graphic design targeted at American Women duringWWIIand what it means for us today.

  1.0 Statement of the problem.This studyinvestigates the effectiveness of using graphic design targeted at Americanwomen during World War II. Its main focus is on how graphic design helpedstretch and reform gender roles, and how this has influenced campaigns today. Graphicdesign played a significant role in motivating the public. World War II postershelped to mobilize a nation. Inexpensive, accessible, and ever present, theposter was an ideal agent for making war aims the personal mission of evertcitizen.

(L. Bird Jr., Rubenstein, 1998).

 More specifically,the discussion on how wartime gender roles changed and how graphic designvigorously communicated its perceived messages, while betraying uncertaintyabout women in their new roles in wartime America. There is no doubt that theAmerican public, (both men and women) had to be convinced about women steppinginto male roles. (Knaff, 2012).  I intendto develop an understanding of how, why, and where American women were targetedand how this has influenced campaigns today.2.0 Change in gender rolesduring World War II.Before World WarII, women were mainly seen as stay at home mums.

The stereotypical idea thatwomen cooked, cleaned and raised children whilst the man would work and makemoney. Women were not given a voice and were seen less able than males. WorldWar II changed this and a revolution in the work force was eventually seen.

Thewar itself created a large number of new jobs, and women were encouraged tostart working in factories, on the land, mending roads and other services tohelp the war effort. Women were the only pool of labour from which to recruitto breach the shortfall caused by the loss of so many male workers (Hill, 2014).How did their male colleagues feel about these women?Gender roles werereshaped as women were greatly needed and were respected. However, they werenot all housewives before the war, and many women were not unfamiliar with hardwork outside the home. Many women who entered the labour force during the war, were,indeed first-time workers.

Numerous of them married, white, middle-class womenresponding to government recruitment campaigns directed at homemakers. Still,in total, some 19 million women worked for wages during the war years. Roughlythree-quarters of these women had known wage work before World War II; the warindustries provided long sought-after employment for many women (ShmoopEditorial Team, 2008).People worriedthat the social order, which was changing rapidly, would be so disordered bythe war that America might never be able to descramble it.

Women were nowrespected and given a voice. They enjoyed hard work and physical freedom, andeven as the war ended, their personal fight had not. They had tasted freedomand were willing to keep it. Lifemagazine had conducted a piece which mentions the “fact that the status ofwomen in America, which was changing fast enough before the war, is changingwith lightning speed during it.” (LIFE magazine, 29 Jan 1945)Further sources tobriefly investigate include Doris Weatherford’s: American Women During WorldWar II: An Encyclopaedia, 2009. Weatherford analyses the lives of women who hadtraditional home jobs, and their new lives after they have participated in thewar. Further sources to investigate in depth are magazines published duringWorld War II such as The New Yorker, Lifeand Collier’s provide insight.These magazines printed war related illustrations/cartoons which reflecteddifferent images showing female experiences.

 3.0 How, why and where women were targeted throughposters.  Famous magazine illustrators such as JohnFalter, Charles Andres, and McClelland Barclay and many others created postersto entice women to join the war effort. Recruiting posters were placed incountless public areas across America. Libraries, post offices, grocery anddepartment stores and even in public restrooms. Posters, radio programs, magazine articles,and advertisements showed women working in overalls with dirty hands. Wearingmen’s clothing yet wearing makeup and remaining sexually appealing.

Women’srole changed, but just enough to be able to put them back in their previousroles when the men came back. The patriotic appeal had two aspects, thepositive “do your part” approach and the negative “a soldier maydie if you don’t do your part” warning. The campaign slogan “The MoreWomen at Work-The Sooner We’ll Win” promised women that theircontributions could bring their men home sooner (Rupp 1978, 156). Some postersdepict masculine looking women in military dress, for example, one of the earlyposters for the WACs has a woman with masculine features yelling “Attention Women!”followed by Join the WAAC.

Posters later on started showing parents andhusbands declaring how proud they were.  Text on posters differed, some proclaimed”Women in war. We can’t win without them” Whereas others showed women onposters with the words: “I’m in this war too!” (Vintage, 2016).

The 1944 poster”I’d rather be with them than waiting” features a woman in military uniform witha backpack and helmet walking up a gang plank. This poster encourages women tojoin the WACs and help with the war effort. The famous icon ‘Rosie The Riveter’ raisesmany questions and requires further research. Visuals are important sources.Being able to visit online photo galleries (History.

com,   3.

1 Propaganda. The display of World War II Nazi PropagandaPosters in the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam provides Visual research aswell as the posters on display in the Verzetsmuseum, Amsterdam. I also hope to brieflyanalyse the theories behind propaganda and what it has in common with graphicdesign targeted at American women. Texts to investigate include Edward Bernays’Propaganda, 1928.

Bernays examinesthe techniques of public communication in a variety of areas, includinggovernment, politics, art, science and education.    4.0. Campaignstoday. The impact ofgraphic design targeted at women did not end with the war.

Even today Rosie theRiveter remains an icon of female empowerment. She is featured in moderncampaigns such as in 1990s Tampax advertising campaign featuring a tattoo onher right bicep, just below her rolled up sleeve with the words ‘Tampax washere’, promoting women’s physical freedom. (Fitness magazine, April 2000). Sheis also reused in Hillary Clinton’s “She Can Do It!” 2008 bumpersticker from the 2008 campaign of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nominationfor President. Clinton’s face has been Photoshopped to replace Rosie’s, withthe words “She Can Do It!”. (Rosie’s politicized post war incarnations.

Author’s personal collection, 1999, Ephemera, Inc.).  


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