Student Research Projects

Body, Context, and Gaze: Images of Women During WWII

Student Hilary Hoffman
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Art History


Women of World War II had a tolerance for contradiction so long as it supported the war effort. Specifically using the work of artist Alberto Vargas and mass-media war posters from World War II, this project demonstrates how images of women both empowered and objectified women during the war. I have discovered three significantly different American images of women during the WWII era: the pin-up, the “girl back home”, and the working woman. The images differ in the way they engage and communicate to the audience. Characteristics of body, context, and gaze illustrated in each category support the war effort; however, some images blur between the categories. I found that both objectification and empowerment were evoked in some images and also that the characteristics of each category – working woman, pin-up, and “girl back home” – worked towards suggesting expectations for women during WWII. The images shown are not real images of women; rather the images are ideals of how women “should” look and “be” in order to support the war effort.


Undergraduate Research Travel Award


National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Mar 31-April 2, Ithaca, NY