"All-Out Aggie": Archive of Women's Army Corp (WAC) Artwork and Related Ephemera
by Whitman, Jr., J. Franklin; Whitman, Ruth E.
[Washington, D.C.]: circa 1942-1944 Thirteen pieces, comprised of five original pencil drawings, four original paintings, one drawing/poster collage, two handwritten letters (one in two parts), and a WAAC yearbook. Near fine, with some light soiling, minor wear, and faint creasing. A very bright and attractive set of WAC ephemera. J. Franklin Whitman, Jr., is best known for his historical book illustrations and the May 1928 cover of Vanity Fair. His wife Ruth was a WAAC officer who served in New Guinea in WWII. Whitman, Jr. was the son of the noted interior designer and proprietor of Whitman Studios and the J. Franklin Whitman Company. His father is remembered for his work for Saks Fifth Avenue and the Hotel Pierre. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC) was established on May 14, 1942, following Massachusetts Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers 1941 bill to create a women's auxiliary unit. Although WAACs were sent to fight overseas, servicewomen did not achieve military status until July 1, 1943, when WAAC was replaced by the Women's Army Corps (WAC). The 150,000 women who joined WAC were the first women after nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States military. Although they were given lower ranks and lesser pay for the same duties as their male counterparts, the women who served in WWII played a major contribution to the American war effort. I. "All-Out Aggie" Illustrations Ten pieces of J. Franklin Whitman, Jr.'s original artwork for "All-Out Aggie," a cultural icon representing the American women who joined WAC. The images depict a blonde woman in khakis in Pacific wartime settings. Most show "Aggie" saluting or looking contemplative with an accompanying slogan such as, "All-Out Aggie says: Mom wasn't surprised when I got my rank. She says I have an instinct for the Corps. I've been Wacky all my life!" Although they are progressive for showing women in active service roles, most of the images continue to emphasize the traditionally feminine traits of beauty and desirability, as evidenced by Aggie's lipstick, nail polish, and stylish hairdo. Indeed, Whitman's collage, which depicts a brunette woman, shows a WAC member washing a bin. However, several images are notable for bending traditional gender roles. One painting shows a WAC woman kissing a male counterpart with the caption "Met a Joe the other night that believes a WAC's place is in the home but he didn't issue any invitations to his home." Another painting shows Aggie holding a photograph of an androgynously dressed woman with the caption "We can relax and sweat in Guinea - no competition from the younger generation on the Home Front!" These images are striking for their encouragement of sexual independence and openly embracing traditionally unladylike behaviors. Most interesting is Whitman's pencil drawing of a WAC woman pushing a car with a male officer in the driver's seat that is captioned "I've had to walk home often but I never pushed the guy along before!" Although the war provided new opportunities for them in the military and workplace, the underlying assumption was that women could only stray from home in the absence of men; this image very shockingly shows a woman taking on traditional male roles and effeminates the male soldier. II. WAC Ephemera Three pieces of WAC ephemera: two letters written by Franklin to Ruth and Ruth's WAAC Army Administration School yearbook. Ruth E. Whitman was a graduate of the WAAC Army Administration School in Alpine, Texas, and her yearbook bears her ownership signature. In addition to photographs of the graduating class, images of the campus, and accompanying poetry and prose, this yearbook includes many signatures and salutations from Ruth's classmates - some of the earliest WAAC members. Although he stayed in the US to work while she fought overseas, Franklin seems very much to have admired Ruth's work; in one letter, he affectionately addresses her as "Sarg," while another letter is filled with his encouragement for her new promotion to Top Kick..
(Inventory #: WWII007)
19th & 20th Century American and English Literature, Modern First Editions, Signed and Presentation Copies
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