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Who designed the famous ‘We Can Do It!’ sign?

Many people associate the women showing her fist high and with her sleeve rolled up with the fight for women’s rights and feminist movements. The truth is that, although its objective was not this particular one, the ‘We Can Do It!’ sign has become a very significant and historic milestone for the development of women’s roll in modern society. Do you know who designed it?

The ‘We Can Do It!’ sign was conceived as a propagandist poster to maintain the industrial production in the United States during the Second World War. It was created in 1943 by the American graphic designer J. Howard Miller (1918–2004). He was commissioned by Westinhouse Electric, a company that needed workforce –like many others– because its workers have left their job to go to the battle field.


The protagonist of the sign affirms that ‘We Can Do It!’ while being presented with a striking yellow background, dressed with a work uniform, having a red bandana with white dots in her head and a displaying a defying gesture.

The purpose of this simple sign with a strong message was to arouse the patriotic flame of American women. The intention was to get them to go to the factories where they will perform works that, until then, only men did.

Howard Miller was inspired by the image of Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a working woman of 17 years old photographed in 1941 by the UPI agency at the American Broach & Machine Company in Michigan, where she was working.

The 1941 photo of Geraldine Hoff Doyle eventually made its way on to the cover of a 1986 Time-Life book, 'The Patriotic Tide: 1940-1950'.
The 1941 photo of Geraldine Hoff Doyle eventually made its way on to the cover of a 1986 Time-Life book, ‘The Patriotic Tide: 1940-1950’.

The woman of Miller’s sign tends to be associated to Rosie The Riveter, a concept and icon of the American working woman that first appeared in a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loebe in 1942. This lyric tells how Rosie with her hardworking spirit helped her country during the difficult wartime.

Even though Howard Miller’s sign was only displayed for a short period of time, this image has transcended time. The picture of a working woman accompanied by such an outright message has served as a symbol for the female work emancipation that started in the 60’s.

If you want to see one of the reproductions of the original sign, you can visit the National Museum of American History in Washington where it is archived.

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