"We Can Do It!"

Description
Artist J. Howard Miller produced this work-incentive poster for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. Though displayed only briefly in Westinghouse factories, the poster in later year has become one of the most famous icons of World War II.
As women were encouraged to take wartime jobs in defense industries, they became a celebrated symbol of female patriotism. But when the war ended, many industries forced women to relinquish their skilled jobs to returning veterans.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
ca 1942
commissioner
Westinghouse Electric Corporation
distributor
War Production Coordinating Committee
maker
Miller, J. Howard
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 22 in x 17 in; 55.88 cm x 43.18 cm
ID Number
1985.0851.05
accession number
1985.0851
catalog number
1985.0851.05
subject
Homefront, World War II
Rosie the Riveter
related event
World War II
See more items in
Political History: Political History, Home Front Collection
Industry & Manufacturing
Work
National Treasures exhibit
Government, Politics, and Reform
Advertising
Data Source
National Museum of American History

Comments

The poster remains a powerful symbol of brave women who came forward to serve. The woman shown is beautiful, suggesting that she doesn't lose her appeal because she does a dangerous, unpleasant or filthy job. The tasks to be done were often far from glamorous and the working conditions unpleasant. At one point, taking a wartime factory job would mean six full days of work and half a day off on Saturdays. Shifts ran around the clock. Much was made of factories that offered such amenities as a hair dresser on site, ignoring the fact that workers would have virtually no personal time off site. Male colleagues were likely to be unwelcoming or even hostile, and sexual harassment would have been standard issue. Which is probably why the poster woman rolling up her sleeves appears to be making a then very well known arm gesture that translates gently as "Get Lost, Jerk."
When this this poster appeared in the 1940's it prompted a family discussion that revealed my grandmother worked in a munitions factory during WWI. She assembled and packaged hand grenades. When prompted, she showed us a souvenir grenade the company gave to workers. It had been converted to a coin bank. My brother and I were fascinated but she didn't like it and usually kept it out of sight. My grandfather was a master shipwright and his war-critical job kept him out of the military. Otherwise they never talked about either World War. I know they were terrified when their only son (my Dad) survived 3 years in the European Theater only to be sent to California in the summer of '45 in preparation for the invasion of Japan... which, of course, didn't happen. I was much older before I understood what that "Greatest Generation" went through.
I love this poster, it is amazing! We can do it!
My aunt was a Rosie the Rivetor in Southern Calif during WWll. She had to make a practice box riveting it together. I have the box. I was wondering if your museum has a box that the ladies made to practice before they worked on planes.
Was this Rosie the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter song?
"This poster was published in 1943. The Song Rosie the Riveter was recorded and released in 1942. This poster was actually commissioned by the Westinghouse electric and manufacturing company as a part of the united states effort to increase production and dedication within the warehouses. This poster was actually only posted for two weeks in February in 1943 and was never titled as Rosie the Riveter that she has become known as today. The poster was rediscovered in the 80's and misinterpreted as a symbol for the feminist movement and involvement in wwii. Miller never intended for "Rosie " to last longer than her two week poster debut, however she has somehow become ingratiated into society as a symbol for those women working in WWII."

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