They Also Serve Who Sew, 1943

Good Housekeeping, 1943

This patriotic wartime advertisement for the textile manufacturer Kendall Mills underscores the importance of women’s work on the home front during World War Two.  The opening paragraph reads: “Women’s nimble fingers are converting mountains of Kendall fabrics into vital finished products.  Insect nets, uniforms for WACs or nurses, shirts for soldiers, shorts for sailors…to name but a handful of scores of different essentials.”

Although the purpose of the advertisement is to praise the manufacturer, it is interesting to take a closer look at the depiction of the seamstress hard at work.  She is an older woman, shown by her white hair and wrinkles.  We can’t see much of her clothing, since it is covered by a work apron, but it appears to be a dark shirtwaist style dress.  Perhaps her most striking feature is her big smile, a variation on the cheerful granny theme.  This time, however, the older woman is not depicted with her family, but rather in a factory setting.  The implication is that everyone is part of the wartime struggle, even those we might imagine to be staying at home.

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