Rosie in the Empire: Gender in British and Australian Film Propaganda during the Second World War

Introduction: Beyond Rosie the Riveter

With her red bandana and flexed arm, Rosie the Riveter is perhaps the most iconic image of American propaganda in the Second World War. Her determined expression calls on the female population to join her in war work—to take up a hammer or drive an ambulance to pave the way for an Allied victory. Though no single image of female war work in Australia or Britain achieved such cultural impact, women in both countries also tied up their hair and took up all kinds of jobs. Just as with American women, British and Australian women left the familiarity of their homes or peacetime jobs, taking up work in factories, civil defense, and the women’s branches of the armed services. As the American government sought to mobilize women for war work through propaganda, so did the British and Australian governments.

In this exhibition, you will see how makers of film propaganda in both Britain and Australia sought to mobilize their female populations for war work. Despite similar goals, the methods were strikingly different. In British films, women exhibited stereotypically masculine traits, and in Australian, women exhibited only stereotypically feminine traits. You will also see how these differences between the two governments' mobilization of women workers reflect the national identity of both countries.

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