This World War One poster was designed by graphic artist Ernest Hamlin Baker, who went on to become the most famous cover artist for Time magazine. My friend Joan posted it on the innovative history blog Not Even Past as part of a survey of World War One posters held at the University of Texas, Austin.
I was fascinated by the range of clothing represented in this poster. My eye immediately went to the woman in pants featured front and center.Depicted with a large hammer over her shoulder, this woman reminded me of images in Soviet propaganda posters from the Russian Revolution. But while Soviet posters show women carrying tools, banners, and even rifles, they are never wearing pants.
Since the United States was only engaged in World War One for two years (1917-1918) there was not the same mobilization of women that occurred in the Second World War. Nonetheless, women got involved in many capacities. They replaced male factory workers, formed uniformed work groups to help in agriculture called “Farmerettes,” and entered the armed forces in auxiliary roles.
Although the women in this poster all look young, we shouldn’t imagine that older women all stayed at home. If you look at this photograph of the Women’s Land Army, the woman at the far left, perhaps the supervisor, could easily be fifty.
What a shame she is also not wearing the uniform of the Farmerettes.