Message of the Poster
Women of Britain say – “GO!”
World War I (1914-1918) was the first war in which all members of society participated, directly or indirectly, in the global conflict. While the men were drafted and fought in battle, the women worked in factories, hospitals, and army kitchens. It was a time of patriotism, passion, and desperation. Further, WWI was the first modern war where military strategies intentionally aimed their attacks at the “weak” local civilians – that is, the women, children, and elders. Because of this, the emotions of women during the period of warfare drastically changed. Not only were they concerned about safety of the men abroad, but also of their own lives and those of their children.
Kealey’s Women of Britain say – “GO!” is a clear indicator of this emotional unrest. As the troops of men – husbands, fathers, and sons – march away, a mother and her two children stand back and as watch their beloveds journey towards war. Perhaps they will return, medalled as honorable, brave men. Perhaps they will not return. The three main subjects are set against the backdrop of the pastoral, rolling hills of the English countryside. War threatens this innocent family and their uncorrupted homeland.
Now there is a certain level of humility that a poster artist must commit to. The art must not eclipse the message; the artist himself and his work must not eclipse the greater cause he is working for. In this, Women of Britain say – “GO!” is appropriately simple in technique. Yet it is saturated with heart wrenching angst. The imperative is either commanding women to support the troops or the women commanding their men to join the arm. Either message is clearly one of heartbreak. The poster combines ideas of domestic and patriarchal duty pulled by patriotism. It targets middle-class women in particular who have become especially involved through their active engagement in the military assistance workforce.
Holly Huey – St. John’s College student
Photo credit: E. J. Kealey, Women of Britain say – “GO!”, 1915