Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Message of "Rosie the Riveter"

Earlier this week, the woman, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who inspired the iconic "Rosie the Riveter" World War II poster shown above died at the age of 86. From CNN:
The woman who inspired the famous World War II "We Can Do It!" poster has died.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle was just 17 when a United Press photographer captured her in 1942 working at a Michigan metal factory, wearing a red polka-dotted bandanna.

Her pretty face caught the eye of artist J. Howard Miller, who had been commissioned by the government to create a series of motivational posters for factory workers.

The face on the poster was Doyle's, but the powerful muscles were not, her daughter Stephanie Gregg of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, told The New York Times.

"She didn't have big, muscular arms," Gregg said in the Times' obituary. "She was 5-foot-10 and very slender. She was a glamour girl. The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face — that's her."

Doyle abandoned the factory job after just two weeks, worried that she might injure her hands and not be able to play cello anymore, according to the Washington Post. She took a job at a soda fountain, where she met her future husband.
That poster has come to represent female empowerment for many American women. However, I think its also a representation of American women stepping up to the plate when her country needs them. As you may be able to tell from my blogging "pen name", I'm a big fan of Molly Pitcher--the woman or women who carried water to soldiers fighting in the American Revolution. The true "Molly Pitcher" has been debated, but many historians believe to Mary Ludwig Hays to be "Molly Pitcher":
Some historians, however, believe that Molly Pitcher is really Mary Ludwig Hays, wife of John Hays. She enlisted in the Pennsylvania artillery in 1778, 2 years after her husband enlisted. During the heat soaked Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, Mary tirelessly provided water to the fighting soldiers, earning her the nickname Molly Pitcher. When her husband could no longer fight due to heat stroke, Mary (Molly) took his place at the cannon. This battle proved to be a strategical victory for the Continental army as it showed that the informally-trained Continental army could hold their ground against the British army, and it was the last major battle in the northern theater. Two places at this battle site have since been deemed “Molly Pitcher Spring.” She would later receive recognition from General George Washington.
Molly Pitcher stepped up when she was needed to serve. Many women throughout history stepped up when America called them to do so, as many women did in World War II, as Doyle was depicted, to work in factories, act as wartime nurses, and the like. Women so often serve because of a sense of calling,because they have seen women who have come before them who have paved the way, and some serve and lead for both reasons.

You see it with women like Esther and Deborah of the Bible and Joan of Arc who followed a higher calling. You see it with women like "Molly Pitcher", Martha Washington, and Abigail Adams who were among the Founder Mothers of America, serving and leading in various ways. You see it with women who lead in the sciences like Marie Curie, who won a Nobel Prize in both chemistry and physics, and Rosalind Frankin, who was the woman who discovered the structure of DNA (although she was not appropriately credited). You see if with women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B.Anthony whose leadership would later give women the right to vote.

Although women have been involved in the political process for many years, the past few years have been extraordinary. In 2006, Nancy Pelosi was elected the first female speaker of the House. In 2008, Hillary came closer than any woman ever to winning a major party's nomination for the Presidency, and Sarah Palin came closer than any woman ever to winning the Vice Presidency.

Governor Palin has served and led both because she recognizes those who have gone before and because she does feel a certain calling to serve. After all, so often when the discussion of whether or not she will run in 2012 comes up, she discusses not in the terms of a candidacy, but a service. Governor Palin also so often recognizes those who have come before--speaking often of Anthony and Stanton, recognizing Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro when she was introduced as Senator McCain's running mate , and showering admiration on Margaret Thatcher.

Governor Palin also empowers women much in the same way the "Rosie the Riveter" poster does. The phrase seems simple: "We Can Do It!". However, it speaks volumes. Governor Palin doesn't see womenhood as victimhood. She sees that women are strong and capable. We may have obstacles to overcome in a sometimes unjust world, but we can see them as constructive challenges rather than hindrances. She is the complete antithesis to the Feminist Left who see women as victims and see babies conceived in less-than-ideal circumstances as undesirables. Governor Palin turns both tenets of the Feminist Left on their heads. Women are not victims, and they are strong enough to bring a child into this world, even if the situation is less-than-ideal.

The image of "Rosie the Riveter" show a woman who has rolled up her sleeve and is flexing her muscle--a depiction of work ethic. If the last few months have shown us anything, they have shown that Governor Palin is a woman who believe wholeheartedly in a strong work ethic. She devotes a whole chapter in latest book to work ethic. Every episode of her TV series has Governor Palin highlighting and praising the work ethic of so many of the Alaskan professions that have been profiled.

Governor Palin has certainly stepped up to the plate and has served as a voice of reason as Janne so eloquently wrote earlier this week. So many in America have seen her a voice that speaks for us. Regardless of any future political plans or accomplishments, Governor Palin has encapsulated the message of that poster--one of women's empowerment, self-determination, and strong work ethic.

May Geraldine Hoff Doyle rest in peace, and thank you for the message your image has voiced.

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