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.
There are some days you know you will remember forever. I recently had one of those when I got the opportunity to hear Gloria Steinem speak at the West Cork Literary Festival. It was one of the highlights of the year for me. Everyone knows Gloria Steinem as a feminist icon. However she is also a prolific writer, editor and a keen social and political activist. From a very young age I thought of myself as a feminist. I grew up with strong female role models like my mother, sisters, aunts and friends who taught me that men and women had as much value as each other. In spite of identifying as a feminist I was often made to feel as though I shouldn’t call myself one. There seemed to be a kind of stigma attached to the word, as if it somehow meant you were angry or anti-men. I was influenced by this attitude at first but then I was introduced to Gloria Steinem.
Gloria made me feel proud to call myself a feminist and now I wear it as a badge of honour. I am feminist hear me roar and so on. In truth all it really means is that you believe in equality for everyone. The older I get the more I realise that if we hold one group in society down it holds us all down. Gloria is 82 years old, now I don’t mention that figure so we can put it next to a picture of her in order to dissect her image like they do in the magazines. I say it because Gloria has spent over five decades fighting for women’s rights and there is no sign that she is slowing down. Her career has spanned nearly 60 years. She is also the furthest thing from anti-men or angry that I have ever seen.Continue reading
Feminism has always been a very loaded word. It has been discussed and debated over and over again. It is a term that comes with a lot of baggage. Many people do not want to be connected with this word because of what’s associated with it. The word feminism seems to say to some people that you do not like men and that you cannot have feminine qualities. I identify myself as a feminist and I most certainly do not hate men. I also as it happens really like make up and fashion. These stereotypes similarly to gender stereotypes, are just constructs of society that we need to break down in order to live in a more equal society.
Feminism is also a word that makes some people role their eyes when they hear it. They say that we don’t need it anymore because everything is fine now. This attitude really infuriates me because yes it is true we have come a long way and we should be grateful for that. However we have a long way to go before we live in an equal world. I think that another reason the term feminism is feared is because it is often part of an academic discussion and perhaps others are afraid to join in this conversation. People are intimidated and afraid to have an opinion but the truth is gender is every bodies, it belongs to everyone. The term is automatically associated with very impressive figures such as Gloria Steinem and Simone De Beauvoir etc, etc but anyone and everyone is affected by gender so everyone deserves an opinion. I think that feminism is for everyone no matter what your gender, race, sexuality, social class etc.Continue reading