Thanks “Rosie”

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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.

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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.

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“Gloria”

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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 a 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 either. Continue reading

Afraid to Say…..

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I have been a fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for many years. I was introduced to her work when I was studying in college and I was immediately hooked. I instantly read all of her writing that I could get my hands on. I also wrote about her and her stories many times over the course of my time in college. That is why I was so shocked and saddened when I heard that her father was recently kidnapped. It is strange when you hear stories about your favourite writers or musicians because although you don’t know these people you often feel like you do because their work means so much to you. Back in the beginning of May Adichie’s father who is 83 years old was kidnapped in Nigeria. James Nwoye Adichie became the first professor of statistics in Nigeria and he thought at the University in Nsukka for 50 years before he retired. It was reported that the kidnappers demanded 50 million Naira before they would release her father.

Kidnapping members of wealthy or prominent families is not uncommon in Southeastern Nigeria however the number of abductions has been declining in recent years. The kidnappers identified Chimamanda by name and asked that she bring them the money herself because she was known to them as a writer. She has spoken of her own guilt that her father was targeted because she is a public figure. Although it is in no way her fault or the fault of anyone but the people who commit these terrible acts it is an understandable reaction when your loved one has been hurt. It’s instinctual to try to protect the ones we love the most. Thankfully this story has a happy ending and her father was returned to his family unharmed after three days. The amount of money that they were forced to pay was never disclosed to the media. Continue reading