J. Howard Miller
J. Howard Miller

The New Faces of Rosie the Riveter

J. Howard Miller
J. Howard Miller

The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in a song in 1942 about a woman who took a wartime job in a factory. It became a popular term to use in reference to the millions of American women who went to work in factories making munitions, airplanes, and other war supplies, as well as those who filled other jobs vacated when men served in World War II. Norman Rockwell did an illustration for the Saturday Evening Post of a woman with a rivet gun and a lunchpail that said “Rosie” in 1943. That was the popular image associated with Rosie the Riveter during the war.

Meanwhile, the Westinghouse War Production Coordinating Committee commissioned Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller to make motivational posters for their factories. One of them was titled “We Can Do It!” It was only seen inside Westinghouse factories for a two-week period in 1943, then went under the radar until the early 1980s. The woman on the poster was modeled after a wire service photograph of a teenage factory worker. Geraldine Hoff Doyle was 17 years old in 1942 when a photographer took her picture as she worked, wearing her red polka-dot bandana. She had no idea that her picture had been used as the model for the motivational poster until the ‘80s. That’s when the poster was resurrected and used to promote women’s rights. It had fallen into the public domain, unlike the Norman Rockwell painting. Since then, the “We Can Do It!” poster has been known as “Rosie the Riveter” in the public consciousness. And it’s been used to imply motivation and power in many ways.

Unveiled in May, Houston artist Anat Ronen combined the image of 17-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai with the Rosie poster to make a statement of power. The mural, titled "Yes She Can!”, is at the Avis Frank Gallery in Houston.

Watch Ronen as she paints the mural in this time-lapse video.

The Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, uses the “We Can Do It!” image, too. This one is their Facebook page banner.

In 2009, the Shotgun Players presented the play This World in a Woman’s Hands, about the women who worked in the Richmond, California, shipyards during World War II. Artist Richard Black designed a poster for the play, updating the image with a black woman wearing a welder’s helmet. This design was also sold on t-shirts at the nearby national park dedicated to Rosie.

The image is being used to raise funds to Save The Willow Run Bomber Plant. The factory, just east of Ypsilanti, Michigan, produced more than 8,600 B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft in World War II, largely made by women. A campaign hopes to raise $8 million to preserve the facility as the Yankee Air Museum.

Michelle Obama’s image was used in a poster to promote the Recovery.gov website in 2009 with the tagline “Together, We Can Get This Country Moving Again.” For some reason, she’s facing left.

Just this week, Beyoncé posted her own version on Instagram.

Although her former bandmate in Destiny’s Child, Kelly Rowland, did it four years ago.

A number of people have use the imagery of the “We Can Do It!” poster for personal pictures. Carla posed in front of her own slogan to show her stage of pregnancy.

DeviantART member Abranime made a two-woman tribute poster to celebrate International Women’s Day.

DeviantART member Steven Donegani created Diana The Riveter as a housewarming gift for his girlfriend.

Rosie has been recreated in other cultures to convey power and independence among all kinds of women. You can find plenty more photographs and artworks using the “We Can Do It!” template at Pinterest and DeviantART.

Of course, you don’t have to buy new clothes and construct a backdrop to be in a Rosie the Riveter poster yourself. You can drop your face into the poster with the Face in Hole generator. Or just change the wording on the original poster, as I did.

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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