UnderCover: An American Icon: The "We Can Do It!" Girl

Friday, December 31, 2010

An American Icon: The "We Can Do It!" Girl

I was saddened to hear that the model for the famous "We Can Do It!" poster died at the age of 86 this week. Her name was Geraldine Doyle and she was just 17 when she posed for the image while working at a metal pressing plant near Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1942 at the height of World War II.

J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at Westinghouse, used the photo for his iconic poster originally produced to deter strikes and absenteeism. According to Geraldine, who was slim and 5'10",  Miller did take some artistic license with the muscular arms.

Since I grew up in the 80s I was surprised to discover that the poster was not really widely seen until the 1980s when it was embraced by the feminist movement as a symbol of women's empowerment. Miller's image was as much a part of the cultural landscape for me as Uncle Sam, striped barber poles, Mt. Rushmore, and Abe Lincoln on the penny—I never considered when the image came into being or who created it. Nor did I know that it only reached its exalted status forty years after it was produced. Geraldine herself did not know she was famous until 1982 when she accidentally came across her likeness in a magazine.

Well I just want to thank Doyle and Miller. Long live the "We Can Do It!" girl!

No comments:

Post a Comment