Men Needed! Sexism in US Navy Recruiting Posters



Prior to World War One, pay and benefits and food were the key features of US Navy recruiting posters.  After the US entered World War One, posters directed at men often featured attractive young women questioning a young male’s manliness if he had not joined the navy (this theme also used by the other services). This was a classic theme for recruiting posters in the US and the UK:   a beautiful woman casting aspersions on your manhood if you did not join up. In this particular case, the model for the poster above is Mrs. E. LeRoy Finch, seen below in 1977.



The woman in the photograph was the model for the World War I Howard Chandler Christy recruiting poster “Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man”, a copy of which is also seen in this photograph. The woman is Mrs. E. LeRoy Finch, of Port Washington, New York, shown accepting a plaque from Captain Robert L. Latta, senior Navy recruiter in New York City, during a ceremony at the home of her daughter, 30 January 1977. The plaque recognizes her long-time assistance to the Navy’s recruiting efforts. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.



“I Want You for The Navy”

The double entendre is certainly intended. Using a beautiful young woman with a slogan of sexual innuendo is a staple of recruiting posters of the first half of the 20th Century.

World War I Navy Recruiting Poster by artist Howard Chandler Christy, 1917.
photo Library of Congress US Navy History & Heritage Command.




In this far more prosaic US Navy Recruiting Poster issued in 1909 the emphasis is on pay and benefits. Not eight years later, this would change dramatically into images of young women coaxing men to join the navy with neither pay nor benefits mentioned.  This poster features a sailor, a South Carolina class battleship, small craft and details on pay and benefits.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.


“These Men Have COME ACROSS. They Are at the Front NOW”
The artwork features the crew of a 4″/50 gun.
World War I Navy recruiting poster, by artist P.N. Leyendecker.

If you are using beautiful young women to lure young men into military service, then you certainly need to have a few recruiting posters of unmistakable phallic symbolism just in case the guys didn’t get it. Here, sailors are loading an erect naval cannon.


“Over There”  1917

This is one of the more interesting US Navy recruiting posters from the era since it appears to show an almost completely de-sexualized woman dressed in warlike garments and holding the phallic sword in her left hand. However, she is making it unmistakably clear to the man that his duty is not to stay around her like a boy but to go to the front like a man!

The phallic symbolism of the sailor holding the flagstaff and the woman holding the large sword is fascinating.


all photos on this page from U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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