Memorial Day History: “Good Work, Sister”

This holiday weekend, in honor of Memorial Day, I’ve seen this poster circulating quite a bit…

good work sister vintage wwii women poster

But there are some things you should know. (Yes, feminists often don’t have the luxury of taking the holidays off.)

Info on this vintage WWII poster:

“Good work, sister.  We never figured you could do a man-size job!”

America’s women have met the test!

Artist:  Packer.  For Bressler Editorial Cartoons, Inc.

What a lovely backhanded compliment this whole poster is.

The whole gender dynamic is astounding…

…The language — use of “never” and “a man-size job” — is insulting.

…The man being shown as larger to impress upon us both the size of the job and the ‘little lady’ is a bit of visual overkill. (But, hell, shouldn’t that USDA prime cut of red-blooded American beefcake have been drafted?)

Fundamentally, it seems this poster was designed to assuage male discomfort at the notion of “Rosie the Riveter” women working outside the home rather than actually thank women for their work.


During WWII, almost 400,000 women served in the US armed forcesincluding 6,500 Black women who faced even larger racism hurdles to do so. Those are pretty big tests too, poster.

However, despite any of their wishes, women could not serve in combat. Because “menstruation & bears!” or something.

But still, even without combat duty, many women — over 400 of them — lost their lives serving their country in the armed forces. In addition to the fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons we lost, we also lost mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. More were wounded. Women sacrificed mightily. And not just the danger of “those spreading hips that may come from long hours of sitting” too. They gave their lives and limbs, just as men did; only the women suffered more in secret. Just as they do today. Just as they always have during war: See This.

Whether women & girls worked in factories or shipyards, in the armed forces, in their yards planting victory gardens, in their homes — wherever they worked — they served this country. To the best of their ability — and as much as they were allowed.

This holiday, remember everyone who gave for this country.

Of Hard Hats In Hard Times

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.

hard hats and gas masks

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.

dressing right for safety women in wwii

Here’s another image from the Henry J. Kaiser Pictorial Collection showing female employes working at the Richmond Shipyard wearing their hardhats.

women in had hats working at richmond shiphard number two

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.

vintage wwii hat owned by woman worker at Kaiser steele

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.