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The History behind the “We Can Do It!” Poster

19.03.2021
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we can do it ww2 poster meaning

The We Can Do It poster is very famous, but why is this? Well, today I am here to provide you with the We Can Do It poster explanation from beginning to end. The history behind this poster is rich, so sit back, relax, and get ready to learn everything you’ll ever need to know about this significant symbol from the past. Let’s begin with some We Can Do It poster background facts such as who made the We Can Do It poster, its meaning, its purpose and more.

History behind the We Can Do It Poster

Where do we even begin with this piece of historical artwork? Well, let’s begin at the beginning. When was this poster created and who is the artist behind this creation? This poster was created during WWII by J. Howard Miller. More specifically, this poster was released on February 15th, 1943. When was the We Can Do It poster made? It would have been made shortly before its release as Miller was busy creating more posters in this fashion. The intention behind the creation of this poster was to boost worker morale. J. Howard Miller was assigned the job to create posters which would encourage the workers who were employed to create goods for war. There are a lot of misconceptions and false information surrounding the purpose of this poster. Many believe that the initial We Can Do It poster meaning was to encourage feminism. Although this became the purpose of this poster during its revival period, this was not the initial purpose for it. It is believed that during 1943, this poster was actually only seen by the workers of Westinghouse Electric’s. This piece was never intended to become as famous as it did. Rather, it was meant to hang on the wall of Westinghouse Electric’s for a period of two weeks before being swapped out with the next morale boosting poster. This is just a little insight on the We Can Do It poster history before it found its fame and glory. But what does the We Can Do It poster symbolize today? Keep reading on to find out.

What Does the We Can Do It Poster Represent Now?

we can do it poster background

The We Can Do It Poster impact has only grown stronger over the years. So what does the We Can Do It poster mean today? As previously stated, the We Can Do It WWII poster was originally made to prevent wartime supply and factory workers from quitting their jobs. This poster was a part of a collection with many others in hopes to provide encouragement during these hard times. These posters worked through a two week rotation, therefore were only meant to be seen for two weeks before they were taken down and never seen again. However, something different occurred with this poster. Following its presentation on February 15th, 1943, this poster slipped through the cracks as the others did as well. In the early 1980s, this poster made a comeback. During this time, many referred to this poster as the We Can Do It poster as well as the Rosie the Riveter poster. During the 1980s, feminism and women’s rights were on the rise. This poster, as it demonstrates a woman flexing her strong bicep, was often used to promote and support the feminist movement. What does the We Can Do It poster mean in this context? Well, the slogan “We Can Do It” referred to women. As in, women can do anything they put their minds to. As years continued on, bringing us to today, the year 2021, this poster still holds significant weight in society. Many people are aware of this poster and many think it was always used to promote feminism. This poster is commonly used as an image to depict women’s strength and ability. You will find versions of this poster everywhere you look. On tshirts and small trinkets, used to strengthen political platforms, in commercials and even in parodies. This poster that was never intended to gain popularity stretched beyond its initial purpose, existing and being adorned for over 70 years after its creation.

Rosie the Riveter

we can do it poster explanation

If you are familiar with this poster, then you will already know and be able to picture the woman who is posing on the paper. But who is on the We Can Do It poster anyways? Well, there is no crystal clear answer to this question, however there are two assumptions. At first, a woman by the name of Geraldine Hoff Doyle came forward and admitted that the woman in the poster was in fact her. Following this, the woman in the poster was identified to be that of a different woman. The other woman in question went by the name Naomi Parker. It makes a lot more sense for this woman pictured to be inspired by Naomi Parker for two different reasons. One being that Naomi Parker was working in the factory during the year 1942. During this time, Doyle would have still been completing her time in highschool. The timeline simply doesn’t add up for this to be Geraldine Hoff Doyle as this poster was released in 1943. After Doyle received acclaim as the model in the poster for years, some new information was released. The other reason that it makes more sense for this poster to be Naomi Parker is because later on, magazines were found with photos of Naomi Parker. These photos make it clear that the woman in the poster was indeed inspired by Parker rather than Doyle. So why didn’t the creator, J. Howard Miller, provide the public with more We Can Do It poster facts? This is a great question, with again a not so straight forward answer. There is little to no information that can be found about J. Howard Miller. It seems that no one saw it necessary to document much about the life of this artist. There is a part of me that enjoys the lack of information. It leaves more room for imagination. Regardless of who Rosie the Riveter truly was intended to depict, all that matters is the impact this powerful woman had on society, upon its revival, encouraging the feminist movement and empowering women everywhere.

The American Rosie the Riveter Association

we can do it poster impact

The ARRA, or the American Rosie the Riveter Association, was created to maintain the empowerment and support of women in the working fields. The founder of this association is Dr. Frances Carter. This association was established in 1998 and still exists today. Although this poster began as a simple worker morale poster that was meant to be seen by a small population of people, it came a long way over the years serving various purposes. To have an association created due to the existence of this poster is truly an amazing act of solidarity for women everywhere.

The Legacy Continues On

What was the We Can Do It poster for in the past? It was to boost worker morale during the times of WWII. What is the We Can Do It poster about now? It is about the support and continuation of the feminist movement, encouraging support for women workers. It is amazing to see the transition from the initial purpose of this poster to its significance in society today. This is a perfect example of the impact art can have on its viewers. Everything is open for interpretation. Society will often see what they want to see, even if it’s not what the artist intended. I’m not sure if J. Howard Miller ever knew his simple workers morale boosting poster would have such an impact on society. Regardless if he did or not, this poster is truly a powerful image that continues to live on even after all of these years.

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