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186 Chapter 13 INROSIE’SSHADOW WORLDWARIIRECRUITMENTRHETORIC ANDWOMEN’SWORKINPUBLICMEMORY Michelle Smith The omnipresent Rosie the Riveter poster endures as a feminist icon, a synecdochal representation of women who went to work for the nation in World War II. This “Rosie” has been celebrated as a sign not only of the fact that women could do “men’s work” and do it well, but also of widespread public endorsement of that sentiment. However, as James Kimble and Lester Olson have illustrated, revisiting the circulation and material context of this image challenges the meaning we ascribe to it. Despite the pervasive notion that this was a government recruitment poster, “Rosie” actually circulated for just two weeks, in one factory, as part of a series of work-incentive posters (Kimble and Olson 535). It was only seen by men and women already working in the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company from February 15 to 28, 1943, alongside other Westinghouse work-incentive posters. The phrase “Rosie the Riveter,” popularized by a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and a wartime song, was not associated with this specific image until its resurrection from an archive in the 1980s (Kimble and Olson 535). Finally, in its own time, Rosie’s famous bared bicep was more a working-class symbol than a feminist one.1 This chapter is motivated by a simple question: If the Westinghouse Rosie was not how the government tried to recruit women into the workforce, then what did those recruitment efforts look like? While Kimble and Olson, among others, have detailed the material and symbolic dimensions of the Rosie poster ’s mythology, scholars have not yet considered the posters in Rosie’s shadow, the forgotten posters that filled the role mistakenly ascribed to this one. This chapter revisits the rhetoric of wartime recruitment by recovering a set of nine government recruitment posters circulated by the Office of War Information (OWI) from 1942 to 1944. In addition, I introduce “recruitment rhetoric” as a concept useful for studies of gendered labor across space and time. 187 In Rosie’s Shadow Recruitment rhetoric is central to rhetorics of gendered labor because attempts to attract women and men to particular careers are a consistent mechanism for articulating norms of gendered work. Given its role in encouraging and discouraging women’s participation in certain forms of work, recruitment rhetoric has material consequences for women’s lives and can serve multiple purposes. For instance, Risa Applegarth discusses how women anthropologists mobilized “rhetorical recruitment tools” (“Field Guides” 202) to welcome other female scientists to their field as a form of “rhetorical community formation ” (194). In contrast, the recruitment rhetoric analyzed here constructs the community of women war workers from outside that community. As a genre of work-related rhetoric, recruitment rhetorics function constitutively, enticing certain kinds of individuals to particular careers by presenting them as naturally suited for that work. Like other constitutive rhetorics, recruitment rhetorics represent a situation as preexisting in order to call it into being (Charland 134). Though recruitment rhetorics range from educational programs and advising to professional job ads, much World War II recruitment rhetoric operated visually, through images of women working in particular careers. Such images contributed to what Barbara Biesecker terms a “visual ecology of repetition ,” where citizens are confronted with a stream of similar or identical images that shape their understanding of a topic or event (152). Indeed, scholarship on gendered labor takes particular interest in the rhetorical properties of visuals (and other material artifacts), recognizing that work is gendered not only through texts but also through physical spaces, arrangements, practices , tools, and tasks (Buchanan; Enoch, “Woman’s Place”; Jack, “Acts of Institution ”; Milbourne and Hallenbeck; Mountford). This chapter builds on this work by exploring the visual ecology of women’s work in World War II as shaped by the repetition of particular visual tropes and rhetorical themes in OWI recruitment campaigns. Specifically, women’s wartime work was depicted as a temporary emergency measure grounded in a heteronormative view of women as men’s helpmates and a counterfactual image of war workers as predominantly white, middle-class women whose conventional femininity remained intact. The pervasiveness of the Rosie myth and rampant circulation of the Westinghouse Rosie illustrate public interest in the history of women’s work, even when that interest is plagued by misappropriation and anachronism. Rather than simply correcting the record, I ask how public memories of women’s World War II work change if we remember these genuine government recruitment posters alongside...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822987185
Related ISBN
9780822945888
MARC Record
OCLC
1113898346
Pages
303
Launched on MUSE
2019-08-28
Language
English
Open Access
No
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