A RIVETING "ROSIE": J. HOWARD MILLER'S WE CAN DO IT! POSTER AND TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICAN VISUAL CULTURE

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2007-07-17

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J. Howard Miller's World War II poster depicting a woman who flexes her arm, displays her bicep, and declares, "We Can Do It!," has been reproduced in the form of bobbleheads and action figures and on surfaces ranging from totebags to human skin. Strangely, while this well-known image has been addressed prolifically in popular culture materials, it has not received much scholarly attention. Scholars have published very little about the poster itself, its creator, J. Howard Miller, his body of work, the poster's function, place in history, and even its subject matter. The purpose of this thesis is to construct this much-needed overall historical and theoretical framework for interpreting Miller's poster within its World War II milieu and its usage in current American visual culture. While my thesis is concerned with gathering basic information about the poster and its immediate 1943 context, my project also explores the object's "second career," its post-war rise to celebrity.

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