Recruiting Posters for Women from World War II



Navy Nurse With Hospital Ship
John Falter
Oil on canvas

Two Women and the U.S. Capitol
John Falter
Oil on canvas

Every Girl that Joins the WAVES
McClelland Barclay
Drawing, 1943

Women enlisting in the Navy during World War II served two purposes. First, they filled positions newly created by the expanding American war effort, and secondly, they replaced men in stateside assignments in order to free them for combat overseas. For this reason, some men who did not want to go into combat and some women who did not want their husbands, brothers and sons to go into combat, resented the WAVES.

Women who enlisted in the Navy also suffered from the stereotype that they were overly masculine, or at the other extreme, government-sanctioned prostitutes. This produced a public relations challenge for the Navy. Through the recruiting images, the Navy hoped to depict female service as noble, serious, patriotic and feminine.

Concept drawing for a poster with a wave hat

Another Fighter Released for Sea Duty
McClelland Barclay
Drawing, 1943

Of the "Release a Man to Fight Campaign," female enlistee Josette Dermody Wingo remembers, "The sailors chant, 'Release a man for active duty. Har har. It takes five of you broads to do what two guys can do.' We have to walk right by them, looking as confident and unwinded as we can. Let me tell you, it's not easy to look dignified and ladylike under these circumstances." Her testimony echoes the ambiguous emotions that surrounded the campaign.

The official acknowledgment by the government of a woman's ability to replace a man boosted the women's morale; however, it was difficult to be confronted by some sailors' disdain of the campaign.

Drawing of a wave radio operator and a gunner behind her

Bring Him Home Sooner
John Falter

Poster with picture of a wave saying goodby to a sailor

To Make Men Free
John Falter
Poster, 1944

WAVE in front of flag

What pay does a Navy WAVE Get?
John Falter
Poster, 1944

In 1944, the Navy printed 101,000 car cards, 45,000 window cards, and 40,000 posters that used this design. Although the Navy initially gave women lower rank and pay than men, it discontinued this practice in October 1943, awarding women equal pay and rank. This created a huge incentive for women to enlist, especially when, on average, a woman with the same credentials as a man was paid less for performing the same job.

Wave holding chart of pay scale

Be a Cadet Nurse
Jon Whitcomb
Poster, 1944

To Navy Nurses

You'll Be Happy Too
Poster, 1944

Poster with a picture of a group of waves

This Is the Team That's Sweeping
Poster, 1945

Poster with a picture of 2 sailors and two waves arm in arm

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