Friday, December 31, 2010

Rosie the Riveter Poster Girl Dies

The object of a drawing my daughter, Marina, did a couple of years ago, has died. Geraldine Doyle, 86, who as a 17-year-old factory worker became the inspiration for a popular World War II recruitment poster that evoked female power and independence under the slogan "We Can Do It!," died December 26th.

For millions of Americans throughout the decades since World War II, the stunning brunette in the red and white polka-dot bandanna was Rosie the Riveter. Rosie's rolled-up sleeves and flexed right arm came to represent the newfound strength of the 18 million women who worked during the war and later made her a figure of the feminist movement. But the woman in the patriotic poster was never named Rosie, nor was she a riveter. All along it was Mrs. Doyle, who after graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan took a job at a metal factory. One day, a photographer representing United Press International came to her factory and captured Mrs. Doyle leaning over a piece of machinery and wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna over her hair. In early 1942, the Westinghouse Corporation commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce several morale-boosting posters to be displayed inside its buildings. The project was funded by the government as a way to motivate workers and perhaps recruit new ones for the war effort. Smitten with the UPI photo, Miller reportedly was said to have decided to base one of his posters on the anonymous, slender metal worker - Mrs. Doyle.

For some 40 years Mrs. Doyle did not know the photo had become a famous poster.  Shortly after the photo was taken she left her job at the factory and went to work at a soda fountain and bookshop in Ann Arbor. It wasn't until 1984 that Mrs. Doyle came across an article in a magazine that connected her UPI photo with Miller's wartime poster.

For story about a 'local' Rosie the Riveter girl, read Marina's Rosie

Below is J. Howard Miller's poster and then the charcoal drawing by Marina (2008), then age 15.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace On Earth...May Christmas Hasten That Day

The first months of World War I had seen an initial German attack through Belgium into France, which had been repulsed outside Paris by French and British troops at the Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. The Germans fell back to the Aisne Valley and in the subsequent Battle of the Aisne, the Allied forces were unable to push through the German line, and the fighting quickly degenerated into a static stalemate with neither side willing to give ground. To the north, on the right of the German army, there had been no defined front line and both sides quickly began to try to use this gap to outflank one another. In the ensuing "race to the sea", the two sides repeatedly clashed, each trying to push forward and threaten the end of the other's line. By November, there was a continuous front line running from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. The action was swift and both sides were determined.

But, in December something unexpected happened: An unofficial truce involving about 100,000 British and German troops along the length of that front. The reason?  Christmas.  It began on Christmas Eve when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium. The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across the 'No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year's Day in others.

Ironically, just days before Christmas a group of 101 British women suffragists wrote a letter to the women of Germany and Austria. Under the heading "On Earth Peace, Goodwill towards Men, the letter said, "The Christmas message sounds like mockery to a world at war. Is it not our mission to preserve life?

The next Christmas, the two sides again observed an unofficial cease fire at the front but it was not as successful, thanks to strongly-worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting such fraternization.

My prayer is that one day we will have peace on earth...may Christmas hasten that day

God bless you all and may each of you have a blessed Christmas!

"It Could Happen Again"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men

On Christmas Day in 1864, one of America's best known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem he titled, "Christmas Bells." That poem would later be set to music and become known as, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day." Why would Longfellow write about 'Peace on earth, good will toward men' while the American Civil War is in progress? There certainly wasn't peace during that time. As a matter of fact, when Longfellow wrote his poem it would be months later before Lee would surrender to Grant. But, did you know that some of the verses in the poem were omitted for the song to shorten it, and that it is in those verses that Longfellow speaks about the war?

While the song is about the war, it is more about hardships Longfellow had to endure in the days and years leading up to the poem. Three years earlier, on July 9, 1861, his wife of 21 years, Frances, or Fanny, Appleton, wrote in her journal, "We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land, one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight."

The next day, after trimming some of seven year old Edith's beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny's dress and immediately wrapping her in flames. In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry's study in the next room, where he frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized, throw rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances, severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning.

The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace." Longfellow's journal entry for December 25, 1862 reads: "A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."

To add to his sorrow, almost a year later, Longfellow's son, Charles, was severly wounded in a civil war skirmish with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes.

There was no entry in Longfellow's journal during Christmas of 1863.

And then, on Christmas Day 1864, he wrote "Christmas Bells." 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And thought how, as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth, I said
For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead; nor doth he sleep
The Wrong shall fail
The Right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

What an incredible story! I admit there have been times in my life when I wanted to skip Christmas. I understand why Longfellow did not write in his journal during the Christmas of 1863. Even though it is about the birth of Jesus, Christmas can also be a sad time for people suffering like Longfellow did. His story is evidence that God hears us when we cry, and that He can wipe away our tears.
Most of the words in Christmas Bells fits the world we live in today. In the third verse, Longfellow writes 'the world revolved from night to day.' It was his way of saying he had finally found the peace he had been longing for. Where are we in 2010, night or day?  I think we all know the answer to that.  Just as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow found peace, so can I...and so can you. Longfellow assured us we can when he wrote, "God is not dead; nor doth he sleep. The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men." Merry Christmas everyone!

"O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever."

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

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