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

1

Anonymous (after Albert Sterner?)
Untitled (We need you), 1918
lithograph mounted on board
37 x 28 in. (sheet); 39 1/2  x 30 1/2 in. (board)
95.3.51

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Red Cross:  The Women of World War I by Arlene Dudley '00 and Karri LaGarry '00

"Through organizations like the Red Cross, women found their responsibility and influence widening from a personal concern for their children to the moral protection of other women's sons and daughters who were meeting the hazards of the war in distant places across the seas." (1) 

This poster depicts Red Cross volunteers, dressed in white, who highlight the important role of women in a place where they are surrounded by the darkness of war.  As a soldier lies wounded, a woman is urged to come to his aid by joining the organization.  In doing so, she would fulfill her patriotic obligation as a female to show support for the brave men engaging in battle. 

This woman is beckoned to the task by a nun-like figure committed to the Red Cross; the rays of light descending on her portray God's presence in support of this calling.  Just as Jesus welcomed many into placing their faith with God, the open-arm gesture of the nun-like figure also encourages the woman to follow her chosen path.  By following this plea, the woman can obtain saintly status by fulfilling her religious duty to serve others.  As a volunteer, she would be regarded as having a role of importance that is promoted to women in posters such as this. 

In addition to their duties at home as telephone operators, stenographers, factory workers, and governmental office secretaries, women were needed as volunteers overseas.  This need is reflected in the concerned facial expression of the kneeling Red Cross worker.  In essence, during World War I, women who viewed a poster such as this were faced with a moral obligation to serve the men of their country, an obligation that could be achieved by volunteering to the Red Cross. 

1.  M. Greenwald, Women, War, and Work: The Impact of WWI on Women Workers in the U.S.  (Westpost, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980), 34.

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