In 1940 a wartime industrial poster was displayed in Westinghouse Electric Corporation plant. The poster by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, shows a young woman, dressed in a blue work shirt and polka-dot bandanna. The woman is flexing her muscles and the caption reads “We Can Do It!” The poster was originally created in order to deter absenteeism and strikes among employees during wartime. It was never really meant for public viewing.
Many men had gone off to fight in the war so woman were being called upon to step in and do their duty for their country. They were suddenly expected to do work that had, up until that point been reserved entirely for men. Women were not generally thought to be strong enough for these types of jobs but in the absence of young men to do them the government had no choice but to recruit women to fill the roles instead. This propaganda campaign was very successful and woman applied in record numbers. More than 300,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry for the first time. In addition to factory and industrial work some 350,000 women also joined the Armed Services.
A photograph of Naomi Parker Fraley in 1942
The poster faded into obscurity until the 1980’s. The woman’s movement was making waves at the time and the poster, which had been rediscovered quickly became a powerful symbol for feminism. The woman in the poster was given the name Rosie the Riveter. The image became hugely popular and was printed on T-shirts, mugs etc. Even though the image was widely familiar the identity of the woman in the poster continued to be something of a mystery. Over the years many different woman claimed to be the iconic “Rosie”. There was even a wartime song of the same name by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. For years a woman called Geraldine Hoff Doyle was believed to be the real Rosie the Riveter. However Dr. Kimble, who is an associate professor of communication and the arts at Seton Hall University in New Jersey wasn’t convinced. So he embarked on a six-year quest to find out her true identity. After many years he discovered that the lathe worker was in fact a woman called Naomi Parker Fraley.
I couldn’t let the day pass without acknowledging this anniversary. I woke up this morning and discovered that 20 years ago today the first Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was published, on the 26th of June 1997. Apart from making me feel quite old this also made me feel very nostalgic. These books hold a lot of significance for me. They were the first book series, other than say Enid Blyton’s creations that I was really immersed in as a child. I remember distinctly when I first discovered the books. I was about 14 years old. We had been told to go to the library to do our homework because one of the teachers was out sick. So we trooped off to the library as instructed but instead of doing my homework I decided to peruse the shelves instead. I figured there must be something more interesting for me to do than homework and I was right! I remember looking at the cover and thinking I had heard one of the other students talking about this Harry Potter character, so I decided to give it a go. I started reading and that was it. From that day on I wanted to go to Hogwarts. Frankly it seemed much more interesting than my school ever did.
I’m not sure if it was that the films were following very close behind or the fact that technology was starting to gain ground at that point but the Harry Potter series seemed to take on a life of its own in terms of popularity and fandom. I think it was two books that were out before the movies began but after that it was a scramble to read the books before the movies came out and somebody spoiled it for you. Thank God the internet wasn’t as big of a deal or we would never have reached the end of each novel without finding out who JK Rowling had bumped off this time. (Lets face it in the end it became a bit of a blood bath) I think this race ended up being good for both the books and the movies. One seemed to feed off the other in a way. When you finished the book you had the movie to look forward to. Harry Potter seemed to encourage readers and movie goers a like. A generation of readers and movie buffs were born.Continue reading