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From Litho Stone to Pentium Chip: Interpreting Gender in U.S. World War I Posters

1

Anonymous (after Dan Smith)
Untitled (Then come with me), ca. 1917-20
offset lithograph mounted on board
27 7/8 x 18 7/8 in. (sheet)
95.3.18

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"Complete your education then come with me.  I lead to worldwide opportunity" by Tina Johnson '01
In this poster, the woman with the flying red-lined cape represents all the nurses and aides who are already over across the seas helping the war effort.  She looks very well educated, physically fit, and strong.  She is a superhero to the young girl depicted in the poster, and probably to other women of that time as well.  To take part in the war effort represents liberty for women; they now have the opportunity to prove that they can work and build independence.  The nurse with the flying cape points toward the "sea of opportunity," guiding an obviously poor, uneducated, and unemployed girl toward a change for the better, as becoming a nurse will help her country and herself. 

Such posters urged young women to work for the war effort by either becoming a nurse or a laborer on a munitions assembly line.  Since women were not able to fight in a battle, their skills of nurturing and care were needed in order to revive the wounded soldiers.  And as many men were enlisted in the armed forces during the war, women were urged to be educated in each area to help with the war effort. 

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 Text by Keiko Yamaguchi '99
The social conditions during the First World War gave women an opportunity to think about self-image and their future lives.  In this poster a white women and a white girl are overlooking a city from the top of a hill.  The elder women points the city out to the younger girl to show what she can do to help.  This poster shows the elder women as self-confident because she is saying, "I lead to world wide opportunity."  She encourages women to finish their educations and then join the Student Nurse Movement. 

From their appearances, it would seem as if the poster was targeting middle class women who had just finished their education.  The first line is, "Complete your education, then come with me," clearly placing a high value on learning for women at this time.  The younger one's clothes hint at a middle class status, with a lacrosse stick and books at her feet. 

This poster asks white women to leave their houses in order to see another part of the world and to use their experience in housekeeping and nurturing to help others as nurses in the war effort.  Women realize that they could support the war effort through becoming nurses, and at the same time advance their position in society. 

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