Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Women in World War II Propaganda

OWI/Office of Censorship created propaganda that prevented damaging war-related information from getting to the enemy.
It was eleven days after the shocking attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 18, 1941, that Congress established the War Powers Act.  The following day the Office of Censorship began its work.  The Code of Wartime Practices was developed by the Office of Censorship for the print media and radio.  It presented in simple terms subjects that contained information beneficial to the enemy and thus should not be published or broadcast in the United States without authorization by a qualified government official.

Information subject to censorship included military craft, fortifications and installations, weapons production, scientific experiments, Japanese balloon bombs, military intelligence, Soviet-Japanese relations, war prisoners, travel of government officials, weather, photographs of defense installations and potential strategic vulnerabilities, such as harbors.  In June of 1942, the Office of War Information (OWI) was created in order to inform the public and encourage support for the war effort.  The combined efforts of the Office of Censorship and the OWI could be considered an American 'Ministry of Propaganda' of sorts.

A propaganda campaign to warn people not to discuss sensitive military information labeled those who spoke about such matters as "murderers." It employed slogans such as "SOMEONE TALKED!" and made an emotional connection with striking images that made the point that if "someone talked" Americans would die.

When the battlefields of World War II were populated with American men, their wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters had to help boost the soldiers’ morale--and do jobs that they normally would not do.  And it was propaganda that inspired, cajoled, warned, applauded, and motivated them.  "Bad" women were also shown in propaganda as “pick-ups,” prostitutes, "good time" girls, and "loose" women that may give an unsuspecting serviceman venereal diseases.
Propaganda warned servicemen about "pickups" who may give them VD.
"Rosie the Riveter"

The most famous woman in WWII propaganda was ‘Rosie the Riveter’ with her serious expression and red bandanna tied in her hair.  She pulls her blue work shirt up and flexes her muscle as she says, “We Can Do It!” The model for the poster was Michigan factory worker named Geraldine Doyle, who didn’t even know she was on the poster until 1982, when she saw it in a magazine.  A picture taken of Doyle was used by J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at Westinghouse, for the poster which was aimed at deterring strikes and absenteeism.

Propaganda showed women how important they were to the war effort.


World War II saw millions of women taking jobs outside of the home.  They took jobs in  war-related industries that were dirty, noisy and more dangerous than anything they had every experienced.  The propaganda promoted the idea of women helping win the war and preserve American freedom, and thus they would work harder and better and not call in sick or complain about working conditions.  
Propaganda applauded women who "waited" for their men while they served overseas.
A woman who “waited” for her man was an image that propaganda applauded.  In one poster, a woman wistfully thinks about her man in battle while she works at an important job at home.  She is called a ‘WOW’--Woman Ordinance Worker.  “I’ve found the job where I fit best!” says an attractive, smiling woman working at a machine in propaganda that demands, “FIND YOUR WAR JOB In Industry--Agriculture--Business.”  Another poster shows an attractive young wife holding a letter from her husband to her heart.  She is told, “Longing won’t bring him back sooner…GET A WAR JOB!”  The propaganda message is quite clear: women should get jobs to help end the war and bring their men home sooner than later.

Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2011

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Propaganda told women they were patriotic if they put up with hardships and shortages caused by the war.

Watch a short video about "Rosie the Riveter."

1 comment:

  1. found this while looking for info for a book review, I was having trouble explaining Maurean Honey's views about the creation of the myth of Rosie. I grew up in Willow Run MI and know alot about the WWII war effort...thanks for the help

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