Sunday, January 02, 2011

We Can Do It!

Geraldine Hoff Doyle died lately. She, as I didn't know, and she didn't apparently know either until the 1980s, was the inspiration for the iconic "We Can Do It!" Rosie the Riveter poster that taught women during wartime that it was possible to take on non-traditional jobs in order to help the war effort.

I read Doyle's obituary in the Los Angeles Times recently. One fact totally struck me. She had gone to work in a metalworking factory in 1942, wanting to help the war effort:
Doyle was operating a metal-stamping machine when a United Press photographer took a picture of the tall, slender and glamorously beautiful brunet wearing a polka-dot bandana over her hair.
But the article goes on:
Doyle.... who actually worked in the factory only a couple of weeks... a cello player, she quit after learning that the woman she had replaced had injured her hand on the metal press, her daughter said.

She then got a job at a bookstore in Ann Arbor...
So the We Can Do It woman couldn't actually do it.

I just find that deeply ironic.


Mike said...

Rosie the Capitalist Lackey
The reason Doyle didn't realise she was Rosie the Riveter until the '80s was because she wasn't (according to the Wiki). The We Can Do It poster was an internal Westinghouse campaign against strike action that had no link to the Government Rosie the Riveter campaign. The link was mythologised in the '80s because of the image's similarity.

Mike said...

Rosie the Heavy Metal Pioneer
In an alternate timeline, Doyle remained at her metal-bashing job and lost a couple of fingertips to the machine. With only crude leather replacements, Doyle was forced to down-tune her cello to make the strings playable, emphasising the instrument's bass drone. Inspired by the rhythmic thunder of the factory's machines, her little chamber music orchestra concentrated on slow, bass-heavy riffs.

The group named itself The Devil's Envoys after a foreign film poster of the time, describing a story in which travelling minstrels are in league with the Devil. The Envoys then successfully toured America, creating controversy by adding a satanist libretto to the music.

The Envoys own tour poster used a photograph of Doyle herself standing in front of an old water mill.

(Alternately, given the Ann Arbor location, the film poster was for The Three Stooges.)

Peromyscus said...

Excellent, Mike!


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