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


Untitled (If the folks....), ca. 1917-1918
lithograph mounted on board
29 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (sheet); 30 3/8 x 20 3/8 in. (board)

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What Aren't You Willing to Give for Your Country? by Heidi Douglas '99

This American soldier's reply would be, "There is nothing I wouldn't give."  By his side is a letter claiming that the men are willing to fight and die for their country with or without compensation.  As is apparent from the bandage on his arm, he has already been wounded in battle.  Yet still he stands looking toward the battlefield with determination, pride, and joy, not toward the letter and home. 

The message in this poster is addressed to males, presenting an image of manhood.  Manhood is achieved by being a man who will fight and die for his country-a patriotic and noble cause-even without pay.  This message may be felt most by the working-class man, since he would be financially unable to fight without pay.  He must face the reality that this impediment excludes him from full manhood. Upper-class men may feel the message as well.  Those men seeing the poster would have remained in the United States; therefore, they are receiving a glimpse of the devotion of their peers, which hints at their own childishness.  Since he is not fighting or willing to give up material wealth or life itself for his country, he too is not quite a man. 

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