Normally, we see the pin-up version of women working in WWII. Like this image of dancers at London’s Windmill Theatre practicing their routine while wearing gas masks and hard-hats with their costumes. (January, 1940.) Or we find articles focusing more on the figures of women, in service or not.
But hard hats were more than de rigueur for cute images of women on the homefront during those war years. In fact, there were many promotional campaigns advising women on how to dress for their new world of physical labor and factory work. This one didn’t emphasize hard hats; but clearly the focus is safely, not being fashionable.
Here’s another image from the Henry J. Kaiser Pictorial Collection showing female employes working at the Richmond Shipyard wearing their hardhats.
Here’s another bit of history:
Mrs. Arlene Corbin (right), time checker in a Richmond, California shipyard brings two-and-a-half-year-old Arlene to a nursery school every morning before going home to sleep. Mrs. Corbin works on the midnight to 7:30 a.m. shift and relies upon the school to keep her daughter busy and happy during the day.
If you collect actual historical objects of women from WWII, check out this vintage wartime fiberglass safety hat.
The hardhat belonged to a female employee who worked for Kaiser Steel in Fontana, CA during 1942-45. It may be more difficult to appear beautiful in a hardhat (even Rosie the Riveter’s bandana is pretty rockin’), but hard hats were the realities in hard times like war. And hats like this are a part of women’s history that shouldn’t be shunned for the pretty pinup version.
I never can wait to share things, and this time of year is difficult enough for me — so you get this gem weeks early. Reading simply, “With Good Wishes,” this antique postcard features the roly-poly heads of women inside the 1908 — the numbers look a lot like floating coffins. Floating coffins of women’s heads, featuring lots and lots of hats. Thankfully, this was a few years before the Titanic; but it doesn’t really minimize the creepiness, does it.
Copyright 1907, The Rotograph Co., N.Y.; card number appears to be I 5 339.
Found at Exit 55 Antiques; may still be available there, and they will ship, so call them if interested.
UPDATE: Harold Ackerman, the man who runs Rotograph.org, was kind enough to identify this postcard as XS 339; my interview with him is here.
I’m pro-breastfeeding and feel very strongly that nursing mothers should have the choice to breastfeed in public rather than be relegated to some dark corner and shunned for a natural act which is healthy for their baby. (I discussed this in a post about National Breastfeeding Month and Public Display of Breastfeeding (PDB) day.) And I’m all about a woman’s right to bare breasts in general. But this whole “Breast Beanie” thing is completely another animal…
These knit or crocheted caps for infants to wear which make the baby’s head look like a boob — complete with natural yet contrasting areaola and erect nipple — are a rude push-back. They are strictly for shock and humor value and do nothing to move forward the rights of women to breastfeed in public as they reduce breasts to sexual objects and jokes. And when these hats are not just for nursing infants, but for adult men to wear too, they aren’t about raising awareness of breast cancer or breast health either. It’s the sort of silliness which is a giant step backwards.
I’ve written before about why I don’t collect Black Americana; as a white chick, I don’t feel I have the right to document such history. (I’ll stick with documenting women’s lives with my collecting, thank you.) But since collecting the history of oppressed people intrigues me, I really enjoyed this article about David Pilgrim’s collection which will soon be on display at the grand opening of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on April 26th at Michigan’s Ferris University.
I love a good story about collecting, and Pilgrim’s begins thus:
David Pilgrim was 12 years old when he bought his first racist object at a flea market: a saltshaker in the shape of a Mammy. As a young black boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, he’d seen similar knick-knacks in the homes of friends and neighbors, and he instinctively hated them. As soon as he handed over his money, he threw his purchase to the ground and shattered it into pieces.
But it get’s really interesting when Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor who wrote the piece and interviewed the collector, asked Pilgrim about his progression from destroying the objects to collecting them:
I went to a historically black college, Jarvis Christian College in Texas, and in addition to teaching the usual math and science, our professors would tell us stories of Jim Crow. One day, one of my professors came into the classroom with a chauffer’s cap. He set the hat down and asked what historical significance it had.
Now, the obvious answer was that blacks were denied many opportunities, and chauffeuring was one of the few jobs open to them. But that was not right answer. He told us that a lot of professional middle-class blacks in those days always traveled with a chauffer’s hat. The reason: If they were driving a nice new car through a small southern town, they didn’t want police officers, or any other whites, to know the car belonged to them.
I remember that story so vividly. No object has any meaning other than what we assign to it. But that was an incredible meaning to assign to an object that, on the surface, had little to do with racism.
This is not only proof of my theory about using collectibles to teach, but it shows just how old the problem of Driving While Black really is.
I’ll admit, I liked this vintage dress more when I thought the Sunkist-orange orbs were oranges, not hats; but passersby would likely make the same mistake and gawking to confirm is one way to turn heads.
Image via TimelessVixenVintage.
That it makes you forget to wear pants.
Just a collection of what I’d call A-Nesting Fashion Hats — “bad bird hats,” if you prefer. Enjoy — and don’t have chicken for dinner. *wink*
And remember kids, a dead bird in the hand is worth two on your head!
Vintage hat photos via myvintagevogue, freeparking, solanah, and chiesavecchia collection’ at Flickr.